Water Rates: Communication and Education – Issue Brief

Water Rates: Communication and Education – Issue Brief

Published: June 2013

Authors: Pacific Institute and the Alliance for Water Efficiency

Pages: 5

 

Overview

All water service providers must periodically correspond with their customers as well as state and local decision makers. In times of emergency messages can help customers understand what to expect next and when disrupted service might be restored. But regular communication in non-emergency periods is also necessary. It provides an opportunity to connect, raise awareness, and educate customers about ongoing issues relating to water delivery, availability, quality, and regulation. Such information is critical to help customers better understand the cost associated with the services they receive. In addition, it is important that stakeholders perceive water rates as equitable, reasonable, and justifiable. Early and effective communication can help promote that perception and also helps increase confidence in and credibility of the water service provider.

California water service providers must be particularly diligent when planning a rate-setting process. California has unique regulations (such as Proposition 218) that can complicate the rate-setting process if customers protest the rate change. Yet, in a 2003 survey of members of the American Water Works Association, utilities in the West were found to be three times more likely than utilities in other areas in the country to report financial and rate issues as their most challenging communications topic. Strategies exist to help water service providers ensure that the necessary rates are implemented, while still ensuring customer satisfaction.

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