The Guardian: Revealed: millions of Americans can’t afford water as bills rise 80% in a decade
Exclusive: analysis of US cities shows emergency on affordability of running water amid Covid-19
Millions of ordinary Americans are facing rising and unaffordable bills for running water, and risk being disconnected or losing their homes if they cannot pay, a landmark Guardian investigation has found.
Exclusive analysis of 12 US cities shows the combined price of water and sewage increased by an average of 80% between 2010 and 2018, with more than two-fifths of residents in some cities living in neighbourhoods with unaffordable bills.
In the first nationwide research of its kind, our findings reveal the painful impact of America’s expanding water poverty crisis as aging infrastructure, environmental clean-ups, changing demographics and the climate emergency fuel exponential price hikes in almost every corner of the US.
America’s growing water affordability crisis comes as the Covid-19 pandemic underlines the importance of access to clean water. The research shows that rising bills are not just hurting the poorest but also, increasingly, working Americans.
“More people are in trouble, and the poorest of the poor are in big trouble,” said Roger Colton, a leading utilities analyst, who was commissioned by the Guardian to analyse water poverty. “The data shows that we’ve got an affordability problem in an overwhelming number of cities nationwide that didn’t exist a decade ago, or even two or three years ago in some cities.”
Water bills exceeding 4% of household income are considered unaffordable.
Colton’s 88-page report is published today at the launch of a major project on America’s water emergency by the Guardian, Consumer Reports and other partners.
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