Utilities won’t commit to water reconnections despite COVID-19 outbreak


It was only going to be a matter of time before water and sewage services hit the headlines in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak. How about this:

just one in five water departments have explicitly agreed to reconnect households currently without running water. The rest have only committed to halting new shutoffs.

Article in The Guardian here. In short, water suppliers in the US (and in many other countries) shut off water to folks that don’t pay their bills. They’re going to stop doing that given the COVID-19 outbreak. But most utilities won’t commit to reconnecting folks that currently lack water supply. My guess is that utilities are pretty stretched right now and that reconnections are a significant manpower burden.

What caught my attention here is the staggering proportion of households in the US that currently lack basic running water. According to this 2018 report by Food and Water Watch:

The average water utility shut off 5 percent of households for nonpayment in 2016.

…and…

The highest water shutoff rates were in Oklahoma, where Oklahoma City and Tulsa disconnected one in five households for nonpayment. Three cities —Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Leominster, Massachusetts; and Champlain Water District, Vermont — did not shut off any household for nonpayment.

We can surmise that there are currently a lot of Americans without basic hand washing facilities at home.