How much Does Your Water Cost?

Most people don’t think about the cost of water—until they get their water bill. Here’s a surprise—in Florida, water is “free.” Most people don’t think so as they pay their monthly water bill, but it’s true…you’re not paying for water, you’re paying for pipes, pumping and purity.

"...water can never be bought or sold."

Eileen Hart


In other words, you’re paying the cost of infrastructure to acquire, move and treat the water you use at home and work. And, most water bills aren’t just water, they include sewer and sometimes, garbage. Some communities have what’s called inverted rate structures. Instead of being cheaper, water gets more expensive the more you use.

Let’s face it. Put your water bill on the table next to your cable bill. Hmmm water is way cheaper. If we paid for water like we pay for gas or electricity, we’d definitely be thinking more about how we use it.

But the cost of water is more than the bill we pay every month. Water comes from the environment. When we take the water, there is an environmental change. When the withdrawal of water is managed properly, the environmental impact is small. When we take too much, or take it from the wrong place, the environmental cost can be pretty significant.

Lake Pierce

Most of us live far away from the source of our drinking water. And while we may not need to know exactly where it comes from, we need to be aware that there is a cost associated to taking it from the natural system.

If we could put a price on the quality of our environment, most people would tell you it’s worth much more than 80 cents a month. But in 2005 it was determined that the approximate cost difference between once again increasing the pumping from Hillsborough and Pasco verses operating our desalination plant at full capacity would be between 80 cents and $1.10 per month, per customer. This is a public policy choice. The question was and remains, which choice best serves the public interest? Tampa Bay Water insisted that this was too much. However, Tampa Bay Water’s own Public Opinion Survey stated, that “typical households in the Tampa Bay Water service area claim they would pay $6.45 more per month on their water bills in return for developing new water supplies.”



"...the cheap water has been that beneath our feet."

John Parker

Cheaper water can carry a heavy environmental cost.

"We've outstripped Mother Nature's ability to give us water from the ground."

Bart Weiss


In the 1990s, our groundwater withdrawals devastated lakes, ponds and wetlands that once graced the landscape of Hillsborough and Pasco Counties. Populations of wading birds, fish, reptiles, and other wildlife were gone with the water. With the water went the quality of life that many residents had enjoyed for decades. It’s a policy choice. It’s our choice.


Throughout this website, you’ll have the opportunity to play small videos of people who were involved in shaping Tampa Bay’s water policy. They include activists, elected officials, lawyers and experts. All of them were involved in what is called, “Tampa Bay’s Water Wars.” We thought you’d like to hear what they have to say in their own words. We think you’ll appreciate their very different perspectives.

Meet the Experts