Changing Our Approach to Water Affordability
Today, in the week leading up to the one-year anniversary of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s enactment, I’m proud to share a new report from the US Water Alliance: The Path to Universally Affordable Water Access: Guiding Principles for the Water Sector.
Water access is essential to public health, well-being, and dignity. Still, water rates continue to rise to cover the growing costs of operations, maintenance, and capital investment of our water infrastructure, and currently, individuals bear the costs of those increases. As a result, water bills can quickly become unaffordable for low-income households.
Due to 45+ years of insufficient federal funding to improve our nation’s aging water systems, the water utility sector has relied on a business model that hinges on local customers’ ability to pay for services. This model renders the sector, its infrastructure, and its customers vulnerable to economic distress and shocks.
We are grateful for the historic funding that came from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for the water sector to address aging infrastructure in priority low-income communities. We must continue to call for greater investment in our aging systems, which is needed to spark greater job creation and economic growth while protecting our environments and public health—improving the quality of life for families across the United States.
And, we have an opportunity, as outlined in The Path to Universally Affordable Water Access: Guiding Principles for the Water Sector. Through over 18 months of convening across eight US cities to understand the policy, practice, and impact of shutting off access to water due to the inability to pay bills, utilities and community-based organizations explored solutions and developed guiding principles to enable financial resiliency of water utilities and end the practice of shutoffs for low-income individuals.
We challenge our members and partners to use this report in forging a new path to affordability. Needed solutions will come from collaboration between utilities, community members, and state and federal policymakers. And as we have seen time and again with continued water stress across the nation, the time to enact change is now.