VISTA, CALIF. — According to a study of water use in U.S. businesses, the average business district/commercial water user saw water rates rise 5.5% in 2011 when compared to 2010. In several American cities, however, water and sewer rate increases were considerably higher. For instance:

•    Indianapolis business owners were paying 12% more for water now compared to 2010.
•    Kansas City, Kan., saw a 15.3% jump.
•    Atlanta charges went up 12%.
•    Seattle prices were up 11%.
•    Portland, Ore., had a 9% increase.
•    New York City experienced a 7.5% uptick in water charges.

The study also identified those cities with the most expensive and the least costly water and sewer rates. The five cities with the highest water and sewer rates in the U.S. in 2011:

•    Atlanta
•    Seattle
•    Newport, R.I.
•    San Francisco
•    Portland, Ore.
 
And the lowest:

•    Biloxi, Miss.
•    El Paso, Texas
•    Memphis
•    Chicago
•    Greenville, S.C.
 
The data are derived from Nus Consulting Group, with calculations based on 220,000-gal. of water consumption per month; and a study by Circle of Blue, which reports on water issues, that indicates rate increases for residential customers averaging 9.4%.

“There does not appear to be a specific reason why some [business customers] in certain cities pay more for water or experienced bigger cost increases than others,” said Klaus Reichardt, founder and CEO of Waterless Co. LLC, who first posted the information on his blog, waterlessco.wordpress.com.  “However, what we do know is this: water/sewer charges are on an upward climb with no end in sight.”
 
Reichardt suggests the first step in dealing with increased water charges is to simply look for places where water is being wasted — for instance, faucets that leak — and repair them.
 
“One leaky faucet can waste 3,000-gal. of water per year,” he says. “That’s costly and wasteful. [We] have to get much more water careful and responsible about our water use.”