Amidst Affordability Crisis, Comprehensive Water Justice Bill Introduced in Chicago City Council

Water-for-All Ordinance Introduced with 15 Sponsors and 25 Endorsing Organizations in City Council

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Clean Water

Chicago, IL — Today’s Chicago City Council meeting saw the introduction of the Water-for-All ordinance, a comprehensive water policy solution that targets the thousands of Chicagoans who no longer have access to water. The ordinance addresses water affordability, ensures transparency from the Department of Water Management, and bans water shut-offs as a means to extract payment from the 14 percent of Chicago residents who can’t afford their water bills. 

Pointing to a grim trend, the latest research from Duke University estimates a national moratorium on utility shut-offs from March until November of 2020 would have reduced COVID-19 deaths by as much as 14.8 percent, saving thousands of lives now lost. Chicago must not add to that trend. 

“If you look at the map of water shut-offs in our city and the map of COVID-19 cases, you are looking at the same map,” said Ab Weeks, Organizing Director at SOUL (Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation). “We need Water-for-All in our city to ensure our survival through this pandemic and beyond.” 

“The Water-for-All ordinance is a gain for the City of Chicago on a number of fronts,” said Zhenya Polozova, Regional Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “It solidifies our water system as a public good, protects residents from the trauma of losing this basic human right, and ensures that people are paying water rates they can actually afford. Baltimore and Philadelphia have led the way in the fight against water privatization and discriminatory water rates. It’s Chicago’s turn to fight for its residents.” 

The Water-for-All program ensures residents pay water rates directly proportional to their household income, eliminating unfair blanket shut-offs in a time when low-income Chicagoans are at their most vulnerable because of COVID-19.

“Access to fresh, clean water is not only one of the most basic human rights, it’s also one of Chicago’s greatest advantages for the foreseeable future,” said Daniel La Spata, 1st Ward Alderman in Chicago. “Water-For-All is bold but actionable legislation to protect that right and that advantage.” 

“Water is life. And access to safe and affordable water is a fundamental human right,” said Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th Ward Alderman in Chicago. Our city must take steps to ensure all Chicagoans can afford water in their homes, and that Chicago’s water delivery system is safe and secure for generations to come.” 

“A Just Harvest understands that water is life,” said Rev. Marilyn Pagán-Banks, Executive Director of A Just Harvest. “In Amos 5:24, God says ‘Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!’ There is no excuse for low-income Chicagoans having to face a pandemic without safe, running water to drink and wash their hands, which is why we need to pass Water-for-All.”

Contact: Jessica Gable, [email protected], 202-683-2478

Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.

Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation is an independent grassroots, multissue, power organization that addresses community issues on Chicago’s South Side and South Suburbs.

A Just Harvest’s mission is to fight poverty and hunger in the Rogers Park and greater Chicago community by providing nutritious meals daily while cultivating community and economic development and organizing across racial, cultural, and socioeconomic lines in order to create a more just society. 

Endorsing Organizations: 

A Just Harvest

Advocates for Urban Agriculture

AFSCME Council 31

Blackroots Alliance

Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression

Chicago Asian Americans for Environmental Justice

Chicago Democratic Socialists of America

Chicago Food Policy Action Council

Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights

Chicago Teachers Union

Cooperation Operation

Environmental Justice Task Force

Faith in Place Action Fund

Food & Water Watch

For the People Artists Collective

Freedom Road Socialist Organization

Freshwater Lab

Grow Greater Englewood

HEAL (Health Environment Agriculture Labor) Food Alliance 

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

Little Village Environmental Justice Organization

National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression

National Lawyers Guild Chicago

National Nurses United

Organized Communities Against Deportations

She Votes Illinois

Shriver Center on Poverty Law

SOUL In Action

Star Farm Chicago

Sunrise Movement Chicago

The People’s Lobby

Union of Musicians and Allied Workers

United Nations Association

United Working Families

University of Chicago Student Action (UCSA)

Uptown People’s Law Center

Urban Growers Collective

Warehouse Workers for Justice

32nd Ward United