A report from the University of Michigan forecasts that, based on current trends, water in many US cities could become unaffordable for more than a third of the population by 2021.
The report notes that cities’ water rates have increased 41% on average since 2010. If rates continue increasing at that pace, by 2021 more than 35% of US households will be spending more than 4.5% of household income on sewer and water services – a benchmark of affordability set by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The crisis already is well under way. In Atlanta and Seattle, some four-person households pay more than $300 a month for water and sewer services. In Philadelphia, four of every 10 water bills are past due. In Detroit, 50,000 households have had their water shut off since 2014 because they haven’t paid their bills.
The crisis is caused largely by the confluence of decaying infrastructure (often wasting water by leaking it away); the loss of inner-city populations, leaving fewer people to pay for urban water systems; and extreme weather and climate conditions reducing water supplies.
TRENDPOST: Look for an increasing number of public water systems to contract with private companies to update water infrastructure and streamline systems’ management to cut costs.