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Water bills spiraling out of control across the U.S.

March 9, 2017


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Residents in cities across America have probably noticed the cost of their water and sewage increase greatly over the past few years. The cause behind many of the surges stems from states struggling to find money to repair damaged water infrastructures.

Baltimore, MD residents, for example, will pay about 33% more for water and be charged two new fees under a three-year plan being considered by city officials to help fix the city’s crumbling infrastructure. Water rates would increase an average of 9.9% annually, and sewer rates would increase 9% a year through the fiscal year of 2019. The plan also calls for new “infrastructure” and “account management” charges. That means that a yearly water bill for the average family in Baltimore City would likely increase about $170 by the third year of the plan. At the time the increase was announced, then Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake stated, “Raising rates is never easy, but ensuring quality water service and a cleaner environment has to be our legacy. Baltimore City must continue to invest in our underground infrastructure.”

Chicago, on the other hand, decided to raise their water rates not to fix infrastructures, but instead to solve the $30 billion pension crisis that has sunk Chicago’s bond rating to a junk status. According to the Chicago Sun Times, City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan is to apply a 30% tax on water and sewer bills to save a Municipal Employees Pension Fund with $18.6 billion in unfunded liabilities that’s due to run out of money in 2025. (RELATED: Get all the news Google is trying to hide at

These are just two examples of this vast new trend that some are calling the “invisible water crisis.” With most American families already struggling to get by, these taxes and price hikes on a life necessity have them reeling. In cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle, and Detroit, families increasingly find themselves in water debt. In Detroit, 50,000 households have had their running water cut off because of delinquency.

For people already living in poverty, any increase in water cost will strain a family’s finances even more. Randy Block, director of the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network, believes water should be recognized as a human right in Michigan just as the United Nations General Assembly defined it in 2010. He likened the city shutting off water for delinquent customers to a war on poverty, and he believes similar arguments will play out across the country as income inequality grows.

Laura Feinstein, a senior research associate at the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank based in Oakland agrees, saying “When people don’t have access to the water that they need, it compromises their health. It means they end up having to make choices between paying for things like medical care and paying for food and paying for water. Water is essential for life. People should be able to get the water they need at a price they can afford.”



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