Keeping the Water On

Addressing rising water-bill debt during the COVID-19 economic crisis

Policy Brief

Due to COVID-19, Governor Newsom has issued a moratorium on shutting off water service when people can’t pay their bills. But eventually, customers who have fallen behind will face either paying a large lump sum or losing water service. SPUR proposes a combination of solutions that can prevent shutoffs for vulnerable families while preserving the financial health of water agencies.

In this policy brief, we take a look at current programs to provide water bill discounts — with examples from San José, San Francisco and Oakland — and offer a series of recommendations on reducing fines and fees and improving customer assistance programs.