Water Bills Are Set to Go Even Higher
CHARLIE SORREL | January 30, 2017
The percentage of U.S. households who find their water bill unaffordable could triple over the next five years, growing from 11.9 percent to 35.6 percent, according to a new study by the Michigan State University. Further complicating the issue, water utility companies may face a surge in defaulting bills that will make it more difficult for them to cover their own costs, which will lead to even higher bills to customers then. Water costs have surged 41 percent since 2010. If costs continue to escalate, a third of the population won't be able to afford their water bills in five years, according to the study. "Governments, utilities, and consumers will need to work together to solve a growing affordability problem," says Elizabeth Mack, lead author of the study. Water and wastewater services should not cost more than 4.5 percent of a household's income, according to EPA. Higher water bill prices and lower incomes can put many markets at risk. For example, Mississippi is one such state considered in the high-risk category since many families earn less than $32,000, says Mack. Other southern states are also at elevated risk. In some areas, shrinking populations have meant higher bills for others. Nearly half of the water bill accounts in Philadelphia -- 227,000 customers -- are past due on their bills. In Detroit, 50,000 people have had their water service terminated since 2014.