Swiss Economist Backs Us Up: Portlanders Pay too Much for Sanitation

June 5, 2011

Writes Molly Danielsson, who, along with Mathew Lippincott, has received a stipend at Cewas in Switzerland.  Part of a group of entrepreneurs launching sanitation businesses, they are meeting and interviewing experts in the field.  Watch this space for reports of their discoveries.

Mat and I had a chance to hear Isabel Guenther speak on May 24th on the dynamics of sanitation and water investments as part of the Cewas program in  Swizerland.  Guenther is Professor of Development Economics at the Center for Development and Cooperation (NADEL) at the Swiss Federal Insitiute of Technology in Zurich (EGH).

Guenther found that people are willing to spend 1% of their income on sanitation services.  The average household in Portland spends $640 per year on sewer fees.  The median Portland household income in 2008 was $50,165.  Portlanders thus spend 1.3% of their income on sewer fees, this explains why the number two complaint to the mayor’s office is sewer rates.  I guess that’s what happens when folks are paying 30% more than they’re willing to pay.

Here’re the facts on Portland and on median household income.


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Our Mission Through education and advocacy, PHLUSH helps local governments and citizen groups to provide equitable public restroom availability and to prepare for a pipe-breaking seismic event with appropriate ecological toilet systems.

Our Vision Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.

Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH) was founded in Portland, Oregon and today collaborates with groups across North America.

PHLUSH is a member of the World Toilet Organization and a partner in the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

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