Water Affordability Successes Nationwide

Thanks to our partnership with The Water Center at Penn via our Water Affordability Program, we’ve been honored to work with utility and city leaders across the country, helping them reduce operational inefficiencies and keep water affordable. Since we started this work, several cities have launched (or are about to launch) affordability programs. Water systems can either exacerbate a community’s disparities, or help eliminate them. These communities recognize how they can be a part of the solution. Read on to hear more.

New to the issue? Check out our primers on water affordability for mayors here

Burlington, VT

Burlington, VT’s affordability program and rate restructure was passed by council in May and rolled out on July 1, 2021. It includes a number of changes to how fees are collected (read more here), as well as an assistance program that will allow customers to waive certain fees and receive rebates. To receive this support, customers will need to show proof that they are receiving other forms of assistance (from their energy utility or food stamps, for example).

What does the new program mean for residents in Burlington?

  • Income qualified ratepayers and seniors will see a decrease in their overall water resources bill (on average $97/year for someone who uses 400 cf/month) from this year.
  • Over 63% of single family residential ratepayers will see benefit on their water resources bill (i.e. less than a 5.9% increase).

Oakland County, MI

In March 2021, The Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office received an Affordability and Planning Grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy to create water affordability programs for the City of Pontiac and the Royal Oak Township system. The affordability plans for each system consist of seven steps:

  • Identify Demographics and Reasons for Nonpayment of Water Bills
  • Research Affordability Programs
  • Identify Legal Hurdles
  • Identify and Leverage other Community, State, and Federal Programs 
  • Create the Framework for Affordability Program
  • Evaluate Long-Term Financial Sustainability
  • Provide Deliverables

Congratulations to these city leaders for their hard work and dedication. Learn more about our work here.