Click the link to access the report on the US Water Alliance website (Mami Hara and Oluwole A. (OJ) McFoy). Here’s the preface:
Water is essential to public health, but the standard, locally-reliant utility revenue model is a precarious way to fund such a fundamental public good. With rising infrastructure and pollution costs, exclusive reliance on local ratepayers places significant pressure on them—especially those who can’t afford their water and sewer bills. Unaffordable water can have very real and harmful consequences, and those consequences become even more severe when water access is lost.
To date, most innovations in affordability, cost control, and customer protection have come from local leaders— and even more are needed. Eight cities in the US Water Alliance network heard that call to action in spring 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy, disrupting livelihoods, businesses, and all levels of government. With the support of the US Water Alliance, utilities and community partners in each city began a deep exploration of policies and programs that could move them away from the practice of shutting off service or imposing liens for low-income customers behind on their bills.
Each city is making real progress to safeguard water access. Collectively, their work also reveals a key insight: the biggest wins are much larger than any single utility policy or program. They lie in creating an environment and context in which water shutoffs for low-income people are not necessary in the first place.
Creating that context and cultivating our collective under- standing of water and wastewater services as essential public goods will take collective effort. We hope that the insights and principles in this report support local leaders in their affordability and access efforts, while also inspiring the state and federal policymakers who have a significant role in ensuring everyone, regardless of income, has access to life’s most essential resource.