Two Key Reasons to Dismiss Latest Food & Water Watch Report

TFTT Report

Two Key Reasons to Dismiss Latest Food & Water Watch Report

Here they go again! Food & Water Watch has previously demonstrated it is a source that cannot be trusted, but “The State of Public Water in the United States” sets a new low. This latest report uses a wildly flawed analysis while completely ignoring important contexts.

Here are the two key reasons to dismiss the latest from Food & Water Watch:


The entire practice of rate comparisons – a practice that Food & Water Watch loves – is total fallacy. There are dozens of factors that influence water rates, including investment levels, water source, geography and water treatment needs. Because there are so many factors specific to each service area (even within the same region), it is impossible to make a true apples-to-apples comparison of rates between systems.

Experts agree that this practice is unwise. In fact, in their new report, Food & Water Watch cites three separate papers that each explicitly warn against the very rate comparison practice that the report employs.

“Casual comparisons of or generalizations about rates are strongly discouraged.”

“As already noted, bill comparison should be used with an abundance of caution, as many factors influence water costs and rates.”

— Janice A. Beecher and Jason A. Kalmbach, Institute of Public Utilities at Michigan State University, “2010 Great Lakes Water Survey” (2011)

“Factors such as geographic location, demand, political climate, water source, level of treatment, and age of system can greatly influence cost and rates. Careful attention must be given to these factors before drawing conclusions from a simple rate comparison.”

— John Houtsma, “Water Supply in California: Economies of Scale, Water Charges, Efficiency and Privatization” Department of Economics, Mount Allison University (2003)

“Note that the costs and rates charged for water services differ in many respects between public and investor-owned purveyors. For example, public purveyors have tax payer sources of capital and revenue that are assumed by the tax payers but are not reflected in the water rates … It is important to consider this information related to water service and rates charged for water service (which often varies by state) when comparing public and investor-owned purveyors.”

— University of Delaware Institute for Public Administration, Water Resources Agency. “Water Rates in Delaware and Surrounding States” (2014)

Citing experts that openly undercut the fundamental basis of your report is not the sign of a sound analysis. Funny enough, we’ve pointed this out to Food & Water Watch before (


Food & Water Watch ignores a key fact in its latest report: water rates are a reflection of water utility investment. A utility that is properly investing to maintain its system will have higher rates than a utility that defers investment in favor of lower rates.

Around the country, cities are facing the hard reality that rates may have to go up to ensure that water infrastructure can meet 21st century demands.

George Hawkins, Washington, D.C. Water CEO:  “…we’re really at the point where significant infrastructure needs to be rehabilitated and replaced, not just maintained … Since 2009, our rates have doubled … Overall, it will be up about 60 percent since I’ve come on board (in 2009). Given the work that’s needed and the fundamental nature of the services we deliver, there’s no question that these rates are worth paying.” (Water World, 12/1/13)

Greg DiLoreto, past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers: “The fact of the matter is, water rates are going to have to increase to reflect the cost of having this system that delivers it to every faucet in your house.” (Associated Press, 9/26/15)

The easiest way to keep rates low is to not invest in a system, let it deteriorate and risk Flint-like failures. Keeping rates artificially low and deferring investment has serious consequences: while private utility rates may be higher in some cases, studies show government utilities are more likely to have EPA violations than private utilities (David M. Konisky, Georgetown University, and Manuel P. Teodoro, Texas A&M University, “When Governments Regulate Governments” September 2015). This latest so-called report proves nothing other than Food & Water Watch’s desire to remain ignorant of key facts and contexts, and their resolve to create ways to attack the private water industry. In light of the Flint disaster and our greater national infrastructure crisis, it is absurd for Food & Water Watch to blindly celebrate artificially low rates and ignore the potential real-world consequences of deferred investment.

The members of NAWC and our thousands of water professionals across the country are proud of the work we do every day to ensure the customers we serve receive safe, reliable and sustainable drinking water – all while Food & Water Watch continues to do nothing to offer real solutions to serious challenges.



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