On Monday, March 11, mayoral candidates Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot both pledged to support legislation to address chronic water shutoffs and rising water rates in Chicago. According to a Food & Water Action news release, at a closed-door meeting with community groups hosted by the Illinois Alignment Table, the candidates were asked if they would support legislation to reduce water rates for low-income families and increase rates on industrial and commercial users.
“The city needs a long-term solution for the looming water affordability crisis, said Adam Dowd, a leader with Southside Organized for Unity and Liberation. “Water is a basic human right. Universal access to safe water is essential for public health and community well-being.”
Food & Water Action organizer Jenya Polozova said that Chicago’s rising water bills burden low-income and working families.
“Without action, water will become unaffordable for a growing number of city residents,” Polozova said. “We look forward to working with the new mayor and city council to ensure that water is accessible and affordable for all Chicagoans.”
Chicago water bills have tripled over the past decade, rising from $169 a year in 2008 to $550 a year in 2018 for 60,000 gal, according to Food & Water Action. For 17% of Chicago households that survive on $15,000 or less a year, the typical water bill is already unaffordable based on the United Nations affordability standard. In 2016, Chicago shut off water service to more than 6,000 households, affecting more than 16,000 people.
“This exemplifies the need to pass the Water-for-All ordinance to lower water rates for low-income households, ensure democratic control over the ownership of our water system, and prioritize equitable investments in our neighborhoods,” said Tanya Watkins, executive director of Southside Organized for Unity and Liberation.