Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Water Bills

I was surprised to learn that the average water bill in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is over $70 per month.

We have a well and septic/drainfield.  We have the solids pumped out of the septic tank every five years.  We had a new well drilled about twenty years ago for about $6000.  I thought we were spending a lot for water.  I was wrong.

Just a few quick stats:

Twenty-nine employees in the Philadelphia Water Department have a take-home salary of more than $100,000 per year.

The Water Department has approximately 2100 full time employees, or about one employee for every 750 residents.  I wonder how that compares to other cities and to industry.

Eaton Rapids is a small town and the "labor" flows from Department-to-Department.  In the winter, nearly everybody works in snow removal. In the summer they mow grass.  In the fall they rake leaves and put up Christmas Lights.  After a storm, nearly everybody works in storm damage remediation.  Everybody who can drive a truck or run a chainsaw is out there opening up the roads and clearing paths for the utility electricians.

I suspect that old, large, unionized cities do not have that flexibility.  Consequently, labor gets to sit and drink coffee much of the year.  Easy money for the employee.  A heavy burden for the tax and fee payers.

The Water Department bills for water, sewerage and storm-water.

Philadelphia reported to Circle Of Blue that their "typical" residential bill is about $30 a month.  That is a big disconnect from the $70/month listed by the other source


 I see two ways this data can be gamed. 

The original article made a big deal about Philly prorating utility bills based on "income".  Income is a flawed measure of a family's resources.  "Income" should be adjusted to account for entitlements and other "transfers".  If the "typical" water bill in Philly really is $30 a  month then it is inconceivable to me that there are huge numbers of families who are not capable of paying it.

The other way this data could be gamed would be if Philly only reported the cost to deliver potable water but chose not to include the billing for sewerage (usually tied to the amount of potable water delivered and not negotiable) and storm water fees.  Sewerage fees seem to be about twice the delivery costs.  That would drive the average Utility(water related) bill in Philly to about $90.  If Philly did that, then that is as ingenuous as claiming the cost of running a vehicle is the same as the monthly fuel costs.


  1. My son works for a water dept of a small town in central Louisiana. The "upstream" side has three employees, the "downstream" side has two employees. They stay busy all the time. The town doesn't have 750 residents, but this time of year, they're tearing up stuff, with all the gardening, planting,

    My water bill is a stand-alone bill because we're on a rural water district. My water bill comes to about $12.00/month.

  2. It was recently revealed that the Post Master of Australia made north of 4 million dollars last year. Now that's a decent paying government job.

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