COVID-19 and Water Affordability

Image of boy playing in water fountain with the words, Water Affordability Academy, co-hosted by The Water Center at Penn

Local water utilities are already facing aging water infrastructure, effects of climate change, and increasing operating costs. This leads to a major dilemma: increase water rates to pay for infrastructure needs or keep rates static at the expense of long-term system needs. Now COVID-19 has meant a tsunami of additional financial strain. Some utilities have felt forced to shut off water for residents that can’t pay. But while temporary shutoff bans in a few states offered some relief, many states never did or have since let the bans expire. At the center of this crisis sits our most vulnerable: low income households, which are disproportionately made up of women and people of color. Access to affordable clean water is a human right and should be a top priority for all mayors, especially during times of economic crisis. ​

Setting the Agenda: A Mayor’s Guide to Water Affordability

This report is an excellent place for all mayors and city leaders to get started. Our water affordability program also provides local leaders with the solutions they need to best serve their communities while investing in necessary water infrastructure. If you are a new mayor, or just new to these issues, view our full collection of water resources.

We know that this work is more important than ever. That’s why we invite utility leaders to save the dates: ​

Water Affordability Academy:

​A 5-Part Digital Workshop for Public Water Utility Leaders

Thursdays (2-3:30 EST, 1-2:30 CST) on September 17, 24; October 1, 8, and 15

​In partnership with:

Resources from Partners

Pandemic and the Future: From Darkness to Light in the Water Sector, Moonshot Missions
This brief provides solutions that help utilities reduce their vulnerability to recurrence of crises like COVID-19 and implement projects and programs that will offset projected revenue shortfalls by reducing operating costs and/or generating new revenue. Moonshot Missions, founded by George Hawkins, former GM of DC Water, helps water utilities that serve economically stressed and underserved communities identify and customize replicable strategies to deliver better services at lower cost.

Water Equity Clearinghouse: Affordability, US Water Alliance
This online database showcases the promising practices that are being developed around the country to make our water systems more equitable and inclusive. The clearinghouse is a companion piece to the US Water Alliance’s national briefing paper An Equitable Water Future.

Coronavirus Compendium, Moonshot Missions
This resource provides utilities with key considerations for water and wastewater utilities in responding to the coronavirus.