For Immediate Release—May 20, 2019
Chicago — Today, in one of her first acts in office, new Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot promised to halt all water shutoffs of vulnerable residents in the city. Last week, after receiving briefings from her transition team, Mayor Lightfoot pledged to order the city’s Department of Water Management to stop shutting off homeowners who struggle to pay their water bills.
A Food & Water Watch survey found that Chicago disconnected water service to more than 6,000 households in 2016 for nonpayment. A 2019 investigation from WBEZ and American Public Media found that Chicago’s water department has issued more than 150,000 water shut-off notices in total since 2007, with the notices disproportionately sent to low-income communities of color. Chicago is not alone. The Food & Water Watch survey found that water affordability is a growing national crisis, with an estimated 15 million Americans experiencing a water shut-off for nonpayment in 2016.
“Mayor Lightfoot has begun her tenure with a bold move to recognize water justice in Chicago where water bills have tripled over the last decade,” said Jenya Polozova, Midwest organizer for Food & Water Watch. “We urge her to tackle the city’s growing water affordability crisis head-on by ordering the Water Management Department to adopt an income-based water affordability program. Every person living in Chicago deserves access to safe, affordable water.”
Food & Water Watch supports the Water-for-All Ordinance introduced by Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa in 2017 that would cap water bills of low-income households at a level that they can afford to pay based on their income.
Over the last decade, a typical Chicago household’s water and sewer bill has more than tripled: from $169 a year in 2008 to $550 a year for 60,000 gallons. Based on the United Nation’s affordability standard, a typical water bill is already unaffordable for the 17 percent of Chicago households that are living on less than $15,000 a year. Without action, water bills will become unaffordable for growing numbers of Chicago residents.
"Lightfoot's declaration of an end to water shutoffs in Chicago is a huge victory for low-income communities,” said Ab Weeks, lead organizer with SOUL in Action (Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation). “Right now, in Chicago, 17% of families cannot afford their water bills. This issue disproportionately affects black and brown communities in the city who pay on average 20% percent more for their water than predominantly white communities in the city. In order to ensure water remains a basic human right we need to pass the Water-for-All Ordinance in Chicago.”
Contact: Julie Light, 510-992-4083, [email protected]
Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold & uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.
SOUL in Action is looking to seed leadership and strengthen civic engagement in communities of color on the South Side and South Suburbs of Chicago. We wish to further advance our racial and economic equity platform by creating opportunities for marginalized individuals to be engaged in rebuilding their communities by fostering engagement and accountability with their elected officials, and strategic policy development initiatives.