The Real Price We Pay for Water

"The price you pay for water is but a small fraction of what it actually costs to extract water, deliver it to users, and treat it after its use" (Carmen Revenga, senior freshwater scientist at The Nature Conservancy)

ecology, economy, stormwater, green infrastructure, systems, water


Nando Micale


Talia Manning


Brittany Coyle

Carmen Revenga, senior freshwater scientist at The Nature Conservancy, argues that full-cost water pricing is necessary to improve water-use efficiency and better meet our future water needs.

In Bogor, Indonesia, a price increase reduced domestic water consumption by 30%, providing evidence that a cost-conscious approach makes a difference.


Some have estimated the cost of domestic water between $3 and $5 per person per day, but this does not take into account the cost of mitigating CO2 emissions for treatment and delivery, city-wide greening, and restoring healthy ecosystems along our waterways.

In the US, a handful of regions are working toward “greening” as a tool for creating sustainable water costs. Many are regulating and assessing fees that are used to build green infrastructure by addressing over-burdened sewer systems, flooding of streams and rivers, and the quality and cost of drinking water. True to Philadelphia’s heritage of having the nation’s first urban water distribution system (1801) and its early 19th century focus on sustainability that created the renowned Fairmount Park System, the city is leading the way to a more sustainable future. Philadelphia Water Department’s Urban Water Sustainability Council is addressing storm water and drinking water at the systems level of property development, streets, and water bodies.