Universal water access is essential to public health, wellbeing, and dignity. When everyone can afford safe water and wastewater services, we all benefit—not just as individuals, but as whole communities, economies, and ecosystems.

Despite the importance of water access to society, the water utility sector’s business model hinges on individuals’ ability to pay for services, making it vulnerable to economic shocks. The almost full reliance on ratepayers can in some situations expose entire communities to public health and economic risks. Communities have been pushing for more equitable approaches to utility funding for years, and the pandemic, coupled with growing economic inequality, has underscored the urgency of a paradigm shift.

To support the field in reevaluating collections practices, the US Water Alliance invited a group of forward-looking utilities to participate in a pilot project to develop alternative affordability practices. The Alliance developed this pilot project with the goal of demonstrating that utilities can move away from shutoffs for low-income families and reach financial stability using the resources at hand.

For more specific policy and program recommendations, the Alliance has released a set of fact sheets with guidance on implementation. The following fact sheets contain more detailed policy recommendations and examples of affordability strategies that can be replicated:

  1. Addressing Customer Debt
  2. Making Customer Assistance Programs Accessible
  3. Offering Engaged, Compassionate Customer Service
  4. Restructuring Rates for Long-Term Affordability
  5. Understanding Community Needs