Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version



Published by the Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Copyright 2010 Regents of the University of Nebraska.


Suppliers of water and energy are frequently natural monopolies, with their pricing regulated by governmental agencies. Pricing schemes are evaluated by the efficiency of the resource allocation they lead to, the capacity of the utilities to capture their costs and the distributional effects of the policies, in particular, impacts on the poor. One pricing approach has been average cost pricing, which guarantees cost recovery and allows utilities to provide their product at relatively low prices. However, average cost pricing leads to economically inefficient consumption levels, when sources of water and energy are limited and increasing the supply is costly. An alternative approach is increasing block rates (hereafter, IBR or tiered pricing), where individuals pay a low rate for an initial consumption block and a higher rate as they increase use beyond that block. An example of IBR is shown in Figure 1 (on next page), which shows a rate structure for residential water use. With the rates in Figure 1, a household would be charged $0.46 and $0.71 per hundred gallons for consumption below and above 21,000 gallons per month, respectively.