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Which city has the highest water bills?

If you own a home, you know the feeling of dread when you open up the mailbox at the end of the month and find a fat stack of bills waiting there for you. While you might know ahead of time how much you need to shell out for cable and Internet, utility bills can fluctuate based on the lights your family leave on when they're not in the room and faucets they leave open when they're brushing their teeth.

That feeling of sticker shock is enough to cause some homeowners to switch over to more efficient tankless water heaters before the next billing cycle kicks in. However, while owning a home is never a frugal endeavor, certain cities deal with much higher prices for water than others. The question is: Are you putting up with exorbitant utility bills when switching to a tankless water heater could help?

New Mexico has some of the highest water bills in the country.New Mexico has some of the highest water bills in the country.

Paying for liquid gold
Normal logic would dictate that the age-old economic dictum of supply and demand should control the cost of water in cities across the U.S. Dry cities that receive little natural rainfall might be expected to charge more for the water homeowners use. However, like many things related to municipal taxes, it doesn't work the way you think.

According to Circle of Blue, a Seattle, Washington-based water utility research firm, most water utility prices are just ratios based off of how much you happen to use. While you're not really being charged for the water itself, you're paying for everything that helps it get to you – treatment facilities, sewage pipes and much more. 

"Seattle consistently ranks among the cities with the highest water bills in the country."

That's why Seattle consistently ranks among the cities with the highest water bills in the country. A family of four that uses about 150 gallons per day can expect to pay upwards of $150 per month for water alone. However, the mantle of the country's most expensive water bill goes to a drier location: Sante Fe, New Mexico. A family of four with the same water usage as their Seattle counterparts can expect to spend the slightly higher monthly amount of $153.78.

Because some cities adjust their utility rates based on construction projects to their water delivery infrastructures, though, these prices can change drastically from year to year. For example, homeowners in Austin, Texas, experienced the greatest annual change – a 31-percent jump for high-volume users. Chicagoans saw a comparatively modest 15-percent spike in their water bills as the city approaches the end of a massive municipal reinvestment project, and the ever-expensive San Francisco increased water rates by 15 percent since 2014 to fund the construction of an earthquake-proof water delivery system.

Make the frugal move now
Even if you live in cities like Fresno, California, that have the lowest average water bill in the country – just $23.26 – don't think that higher water rates aren't coming your way eventually. Circle of Blue noted that the country-wide price of water rose 6 percent from 2014 to 2015, so if you want get ahead of the trend of higher utility bills, it makes sense to switch to a tankless heater sooner rather than later.

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