Denver ranks 5th for water investment among 100 metros, Brookings says

The Brookings Institute studied the health of 97 water utilities and found most of them lacking.

Mist floats over the South Platte River on a snowy day. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)skyline; cityscape; cowx; weather; cold; snow; winter; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite;
Mist floats over the South Platte River on a snowy day. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) skyline; cityscape; cowx; weather; cold; snow; winter; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite;
Mist floats over the South Platte River on a snowy day. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Brookings Institute studied the health of 97 water utilities and found most of them lacking. Only 11 metropolitan areas scored highly in their six metrics for well-financed systems.

Denver was one of them. Not only that, Denver was among the top five cities overall.

The city scored especially well when it comes to how much debt the water utility holds. New York City, for example, carries long-term debt worth 94 percent of the value of their current assets. Denver, by contrast has debt worth only 16 percent of its assets.

Denver also charges low drinking water rates and manages to earn more money than it spends.

Two other cities in the water-scarce West scored among the top 10 — Las Vegas and Salt Lake City — underscoring the fact that water management has been on the region’s mind for some time.

Denver’s relative prosperity also boosted its score. The Brookings Institute also includes economic indicators like the share of households earning less than $25,000 and change in median household income over the past decade.

It’s not surprising that cities with the worst overall water investment scores had high shares of low-earning households and losses in median income. In that sense, Denver is fortunate to have rising median incomes and only 20.6 percent households earning less than $25,000.