FAQs About the Industry
Water companies provide communities with professional operation and management of their drinking water and wastewater systems. As community drinking water systems face increasingly stringent water quality standards and new threats from unhealthy contaminants like PFAS, some local governments may find themselves in need of assistance to keep safe and reliable water flowing to their residents. Water companies provide local governments with the operations expertise and infrastructure investments necessary to provide safe drinking water and wastewater services.
Water companies provide dedicated expertise, access to capital for urgent infrastructure needs, and access to new technologies that lower costs and improve service. Furthermore, America’s water companies have an unparalleled water quality record. EPA data show that drinking water systems run by water companies are significantly less likely to violate federal drinking water standards than systems run by local governments. In addition, because their operations are often regionalized, water companies have the ability to provide greater economies of scale and operational efficiencies than local governments.1
Drinking water quality standards are becoming increasingly stringent, and some local governments may find themselves in need of assistance to keep their communities safe. Others may face massive and urgent infrastructure needs that require financing capacity and operations expertise that water companies can provide. And some local governments simply want to focus on other urgent priorities and benefit from knowing that professionals are in charge of running their water and wastewater systems. Whatever the reason, water companies stand ready to assist local governments with their unique water challenges.
America’s water companies serve more than 73 million customers across all 50 states. Water companies treat and distribute 4.6 billion gallons of drinking water to customer taps every day – 1.7 trillion gallons per year – and maintain more than 100,000 miles of water pipes.
No. Water companies operate water systems – the pipes, pumps, treatment facilities, and other infrastructure necessary to deliver clean drinking water to households and businesses. Under all models of water company operations, control and management of the source water itself does not change and remains in public hands, typically under the purview of a state water resource management agency.
Water companies never set their water rates.
Under the regulated model of water company operations, rates are set by a state government agency called a public utility commission. These independent, expert regulators determine the rates needed to operate the system and deliver safe drinking water. Experts have noted that this process enhances transparency and consumer protection in comparison to the rate setting process for local government systems, which are not subject to state utility commission regulation.2
Under the contract model of water company operations, rates are set by the local government through their operations agreement with the water company. The contracts between water companies and local governments dictate performance metrics that must be met in order for the company to get paid. These terms cover everything from staffing and treatment protocols to infrastructure investments.
Yes. Water companies must comply with all state and federal water quality standards. America’s water companies have an unparalleled water quality record. EPA data show that drinking water systems run by water companies are significantly less likely to violate federal drinking water standards than drinking water systems run by local governments.3