Harris Introduces Bill to Ensure Access to Affordable Clean Water for Working Families


U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris introduced the Water Affordability Act of 2018, legislation that would help low-income families across the country pay for rising sewer and water bills. As municipalities work to comply with The Clean Water Act, the cost of compliance is placing a high burden on low-income families who pay for sewer and water utilities. The Water Affordability Actwould direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a pilot program, named the Low Income Sewer and Water Assistance Program (LISWAP), to award grants for public water utility companies to assist low-income households with bill repayment. Eligibility for grant assistance would consider environmental risk factors and inequitable environmental burdens as part of the eligibility criteria.

“No family should have to choose between paying for safe, clean drinking water and putting food on the table. Access to affordable clean water is a fundamental right,” said Senator Harris. “In California alone, rates for water have risen by as much as 71% in Los Angeles and as much as 127% in San Francisco within the past decade. That places a huge burden on families just trying to make ends meet, and it’s our responsibility to act.”


“Across the country, far too many communities are dealing with insufficient wastewater and drinking water that harm their health and well-being,” said Jenifer Collins, Associate Legislative Representative for Earthjustice. “The Water Affordability Act is an important step in addressing this urgent need and we look forward to continuing to work with Senator Harris and our community partners to ensure that all communities across the country have access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation services.”


“We commend Senator Harris for addressing such a critical issue. Access to safe, clean water, and reliable wastewater and stormwater systems, should not be a privilege for the few,” said Rosemary Enobakhare, Director for Clean Water for All Coalition. “No one should have to suffer from lead contamination, untreated sewage, or polluted runoff, as these problems have severe impacts on the health, safety, and economies of our communities. Water infrastructure funding must be prioritized for communities that have critical infrastructure needs and lack the ability to meet those needs. Senator Harris saw the need and is working to address one of our country’s greatest challenges by creating meaningful water infrastructure legislation that provides and promotes clean, affordable water for all while protecting our environment and our communities.”


“Every human has a right to safe, clean and affordable water,” said San Francisco Public Utilities Commission General Manager Harlan L. Kelly. “In San Francisco, we work hard every day to provide high-quality public utility services that are affordable for all of our customers, including ratepayers in our most vulnerable communities. But local government can’t do it alone. As a country, we must come together and leverage federal partnerships and resources to make this life sustaining resource available and affordable to everyone. This proposed grant program will bring us one step closer to making that a reality.”


“The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) is pleased to support The Water Affordability Act by U.S. Senator Kamala Harris,” said Tim Quinn, ACWA Executive Director. “This bill establishes a grant based pilot project to help those most in need pay their sewer and drinking water bills. ACWA represents 440 public water agencies that together supply over 90 percent of the water delivered in California for residential, agricultural, and industrial uses. Ensuring access to safe, reliable water is a priority for ACWA member agencies.”


Text of the bill is available here.