Water & Equity
Great Lakes Water Equity
In Chicago, the cost of water for the average family of four nearly tripled between 2007 and 2018. Cleveland's rates more than doubled — to $1,317 per year for an average family of four. And families in Detroit paid $1,151 annually. By contrast, that same average family living in Phoenix, which pipes in much of its water from 200 miles away and has been called the least sustainable city in the country, paid about two-thirds less.
What’s going on with rising drinking water prices in the Great Lakes?
In early 2018, the Water Main asked: What’s going on with rising drinking water prices in the Great Lakes? That question sparked a collaboration with APM Reports to take a deeper look. The APM Reports team worked with Great Lakes Today – a consortium of public radio stations – for over nine months on the investigation.
The investigative team examined the cost of water in the six largest cities near the Great Lakes – Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit, Buffalo and Duluth – over the past 10 years and found that rates have risen alarmingly fast and that costs are considerably higher than water scarce cities like Phoenix, AZ.
In these six cities, water utilities have issued at least 367,740 shutoff notices in the past decade.
The story of rising water rates in the region is complex. Much of America's water infrastructure was built more than a century ago and is in dire need of replacement. As federal funding for water infrastructure has declined, populations have shrunk, and communities have focused on curbing water pollution, the cost of maintaining and replacing necessary water infrastructure has become out of reach. This results in high water costs for consumers and public health crises related to water contamination.
The Water Main wanted to bring awareness on issues and shed light for ongoing work in under served communities. Unlike more visible infrastructure problems — such as electrical blackouts, dangerous bridges or clogged highways — the spikes in water prices may go unnoticed by Americans not directly impacted by rising water costs.
Despite the lack of national attention focused on rising water costs, local communities have been organizing around the issue of water quality and water affordability for years. The Water Main is working with community organizations, utilities, local government, and residents to organize around water affordability.
Prior to the airing of the national reporting, we gathered with stakeholders in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Cleveland to explore solutions. If you have a solution or would like to be involved in our work, please contact us or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More work is coming to highlight solutions on connecting under served communities with resources.
So Close, Yet So Costly
Around the Great Lakes people who are poor are paying the costs for poor water infrastructure. These families are struggling to pay for water costs and experiencing shut offs from water utility companies.The high water costs and poor water pipes are causing burdens for its residents. Read the full report >>
A Water Crisis Is Growing in a Place You’d Least Expect It
Times are tough around the Great Lakes regions when it comes to water affordability. Water rates have doubled and tripled in the last decade. The residents around the Great Lakes Region go without running water and try to make ends meet to afford the water bill. Listen to the national story >>
How we did it: Inside our investigation of water rates in six cities around the Great Lakes
APM Reports’ data journalist Will Craft explains how the investigative team goes from asking a question to requesting and interpreting data. Read the methodology >>
WCPN - Elizabeth Miller
As Rates Rise, Cleveland Water and Sewer Grapples With Affordability
Families are paying over $1,000 annually for water and sewer costs. Great Lakes Today and American Public Media take a glance into the water rates and shut offs across the Great Lakes region. Read the Cleveland reporting >>
WUWM - Susan Bence
The Price of Water & Not Tending To The Pipes that Deliver It
The cost of water in Milwaukee is among the lowest in the Greater Lakes region, but the water quality needs improvement. Water infrastructure and lead is a huge issue in Milwaukee and finding ways to reduce the amount must be addressed. Read the Milwaukee reporting >>
MPR News - Dan Kraker
Old pipes, rising rates: Duluth and other cities invest in water infrastructure
Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes supporting the city of Duluth. The city has several shut offs and some of the most expensive water within the Great Lakes region. Each year Duluth has approximately 140 water main breaks causing the city $7,000 to repair. Read the Duluth reporting >>
WBFO - Angelica Morrison
Water affordability concerns addressed in the city of Buffalo
Lake Erie is a natural source of fresh drinking water for thousands in Western the New York region. Even though it’s readily available for consumption sometimes hundreds of local residents find themselves going without. Read the Buffalo reporting >>
WBEZ - Maria Ines Zamudio
Chicago’s water prices are skyrocketing faster than other great lake cities
Every year the Chicago Water Department shuts off water services to thousands of residents. Chicago has the fastest increasing water rate among the Great Lakes Cities. Read the Chicago reporting >>
Special Report: The Water Drain
In fall of 2017, the Chicago Tribune published a series of articles exploring water affordability in the Chicagoland area. Read more >>
Harvard T.H. Chan - School of Public Health
Report: Lead levels too high in many U.S. schools
According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California., more than 40% of schools around the country have high concentration of lead in their drinking water. Read more >>
The Wall Street Journal
Why Your Water Bill is Rising Much Faster Than Inflation
In the United States water bills started to inflate during the mid-2000s and have increased 5.5% every year. Now communities are trying to catch up and improve their water and sewer infrastructure. Read more >>
Circle of Blue
Price of Water 2017: Four Percent Increase in 30 Large U.S. Cities
Nationwide the water utility rates are rising to pay for infrastructure improvements. It has been reported that 30 large cities in the United States have experienced an increase in water rates. A reported survey displays the increases of monthly costs of water from 2010 to 2018. Read more >>
Chico demands moratorium on water shut-offs
Shutoffs in Chicago came about because the costs nearly tripled for a family of four making water bills unaffordable for some families. During the water moratorium Mayoral candidate Grey Chico wants to provide programs to assist low-income individuals. Read more >>
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