Covid-19 Crisis Could Decimate Water Utility Revenue, Worsen Affordability Problems

Apr 8, 2020

Only a few weeks into the shutdown of large portions of the American economy, the loss of jobs and business is already staggering.

Some 6.6 million people filed unemployment claims last week, according to data released by the Labor Department on Thursday. That number is nearly ten times the previous weekly record, from 1982.

The widespread closure of restaurants, manufacturing facilities, theaters, dentist offices, and universities will reverberate not only in jobs reports. The shutdown will also have immediate and potentially long-lasting consequences for America’s water utilities and the people they serve.

Not all of the country’s roughly 50,000 public water systems share the same vulnerabilities, analysts say. But all will be affected in some way by changes in water use patterns and prohibitions on turning off water service. They will have customers who are suddenly jobless and cannot pay their bills on time. Late payments could increase. With businesses closing, water sales, which fund the majority of utility budgets, could decline, especially for utilities that rely on a few large industries for the bulk of their revenue.

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