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Water, Cheaper Than Dirt

  • Author(s): Haskins, Charles A.
  • Publications: Journal - American Water Works Association
  • Issue Date: October 2017
  • Volume / Number: 109, Number 10
  • Page(s): 52-55
  • DOI:
  • Product Number: JAW_0085658
Full Text: pdf

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As Charles Haskins points out in his 1933 article, "the profits in water-works operation are more of a social than of a financial nature," and these words still ring true today. So begins Haskins' exploration of what "profitable" means beyond the ability to cover the costs of capital improvements, operations and maintenance, and debt service. Haskins also shines a light on the fact that the useful life of many water works is much longer than their payback period, which can impose a burden on the present consumer for the benefit of the future consumer unless addressed through fair and reasonable rates. And while the fixed portion of water rates may have been a concern with regard to the cost of fire protection in the past, it's still a timely issue with regard to overall infrastructure financing and affordability. Unfortunately, many today will still probably agree with Haskins' notion that "the expression should be changed to 'water cheap' because this, the most essential of all commodities, is actually far cheaper than dirt."

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