How much does tap water really cost?

In recent times, many of us have switched our focus to how much we are spending on alternatives to tap water, such as bottled water, in our bid to prioritise personal health and wellness. But have you ever wondered about how much tap water really costs?

The answer to this may seem relatively straightforward – after all, tap water is considered one of the most accessible and affordable commodities out there. However, while it may be true that tap water is cheaper than bottled water, there are other factors that impact its true cost.

The Production and Distribution of Tap Water

Before discussing how much tap water actually costs, let’s first dive into the process of how it is produced and distributed. Tap water is typically sourced from rivers, lakes or groundwater wells, then treated in municipal water treatment plants to remove impurities such as bacteria, viruses and chemicals. Once treated, the water is then transported through a network of pipes and pump stations to homes and other buildings. This entire process needs to be funded, and this is where the cost of tap water comes into play.

What Are the Factors That Affect the Cost of Tap Water?

  • The cost of raw water – this refers to the amount spent on acquiring untreated water from sources such as rivers, lakes or wells that is then treated and made suitable for human consumption.
  • Water treatment costs – this includes the cost of implementing and maintaining treatment plants that ensure that the water supplied is safe and clean for public consumption.
  • Pipe network infrastructure costs – the cost of creating and maintaining pipes and other fixtures required to transport water from treatment plants to consumers.
  • Water utility fees – governments and local councils levy charges on water users to help fund the process of supplying water

How Much Does It Cost to Produce and Distribute Tap Water in the United States?

In the US, the average cost of treating and distributing one thousand gallons of water is around $2.00. This is according to data provided by the American Water Works Association (AWWA). According to the same data, municipalities often charge between $2 to $3 per 1,000 gallons of water consumed.

Is Tap Water Cheaper Than Bottled Water?

While tap water may not cost much to produce and distribute, bottled water comes with a slew of additional costs, including production costs, transport costs, marketing costs, and various other fees. According to the AWWA, while tap water may cost around $2.00 to treat and distribute one thousand gallons, in contrast, bottled water can cost almost 2,000 times more than that, at around $3.50 per gallon.

What Are the Environmental Costs of Bottled Water?

Choosing bottled water over tap water can be detrimental to the environment. Using bottled water has a significant negative impact on the planet, as it requires the production of plastic bottles, which takes years to degrade. Furthermore, the manufacturing and transport of these plastic bottles contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases.

The Hidden Costs of Tap Water

While tap water may seem cheap in comparison to bottled water, it is worth remembering that there are hidden costs associated with it.

What Are the Added Costs of High Chlorine Content in Tap Water?

Most local water treatment facilities add chlorine or chloramine to the water to eliminate viruses and bacteria. While these are essential to ensuring the water’s safety, high levels of chlorine can have some negative impacts. Chlorine can cause dry skin, hair loss, and eye irritation. It can also have an adverse effect on people with respiratory issues.

What Are the Costs Associated with Hard Water?

Hard water has high levels of mineral content, such as calcium and magnesium, and is a common occurrence in many areas. While hard water is safe to drink, it can have some negative impacts on people who shower, do laundry or wash dishes with it. Hard water can damage plumbing, fixtures, hoses and appliances, forcing many households to purchase water softeners or other equipment to mitigate the impact of hard water on their homes and housekeeping.

How Can You Reduce the Cost of Tap Water?

Reducing the cost of tap water requires some effort on your part.

Using a Water Filter

Using a water filter system is an effective way to reduce the cost of tap water, as it eliminates impurities that may require extra treatment measures. Water filters can also help reduce the need for expensive bottled water, as they provide the same quality and taste at a fraction of the cost.

Fixing Leaking Taps

Fixing leaking taps can help reduce water wastage and contribute to lowering your water bills. Leaky faucets can waste as much as ten gallons of water per day.

Installing Low-Flow Fixtures

Installing low-flow fixtures in faucets and showerheads can have a tremendous impact on lowering water consumption and reducing bills. Low-flow fixtures can help you save up to 50% of the water used in conventional faucets and showerheads.


Tap water may be relatively cheap compared to bottled water, but there are still costs associated with production and distribution as well as hidden costs resulting from hard water and high chlorine content. Reducing your tap water cost requires a bit of effort in terms of installing low-flow fixtures, fixing leaky taps and using water filtration systems.

  • How much does one gallon of tap water cost in the US?
  • The average cost of treating and distributing one thousand gallons of water is around $2.00 in the US.
  • Is bottled water more expensive than tap water?
  • Yes, bottled water can cost almost 2,000 times more than tap water, at around $3.50 per gallon.
  • What are the environmental costs of bottled water?
  • Using bottled water contributes significantly to environmental pollution, as it involves the production of plastic bottles, which can take years to degrade, and the manufacturing and transport of these bottles contribute to significant greenhouse gas emissions.
  • What are the ways to reduce tap water expenses?
  • Reducing tap water cost can be achieved by using a water filter system, fixing leaking taps or installing low-flow fixtures that reduce water consumption.


American Water Works Association (n.d.). Accessed August 2021 from

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