For Immediate Release
A new national survey of water shutoff rates includes no data from New Jersey’s largest operators, after NJ American Water and Suez both failed to comply with requests to provide the information.
The report, America’s Secret Water Crisis: National Shutoff Survey Reveals Water Affordability Emergency Affecting Millions, is a first-ever nationwide assessment of water shutoffs for non-payment, as reported today in the Associated Press. The results point to an alarming and largely hidden water affordability crisis. The report finds that the average water utility shut off 5 percent of households for nonpayment in 2016. Based on the survey results, Food & Water Watch estimates that 15 million people in the United States experienced a water shutoff at some point that year.
In total, 15 of the 73 utilities reported shut off rates of more than 10 percent. The highest shutoff rates were mostly concentrated in the South – Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida.
All but one of responding water utilities are publicly-owned. But in New Jersey, water service has been privatized in many communities. These companies routinely decline to make shutoff data publicly available.
“Water shutoffs have direct negative impacts on public health and wellbeing, and this research shows that the damage is most acutely felt in poor communities of color. But here in New Jersey we have no way of knowing the extent of the problem, because companies like Suez and American Water hide the data,” said Lena Smith, Senior Organizer and Policy Advocate at Food & Water Watch. “State lawmakers can fix this problem by passing water transparency laws that would prevent private companies from using their status as corporations to hide essential information from the public.”
In June, Food & Water Watch sued the city of Camden in order to get shutoff data from New Jersey American Water, which has a service contract to run the water system. The city eventually made that data available weeks later.
Accompanying data visualizations (embed codes available upon request):
Interactive Map: http://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/wyUkk/14/
Interactive Chart of Survey Results: http://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/IUvzm/9/