Across the country, drinking water is getting more expensive. Aging infrastructure, wage stagnation, unpredictable billing, pollution, population change, and other factors all stress an affordable, reliable water bill. From 2010 to 2019, the price of water service increased by over 57% in 30 major U.S. cities. At the same time, household income has been essentially stagnant, particularly for working class wages. A growing number of households will find their water bills unaffordable if water rates continue to rise at the expected pace.
Affordability is a nuanced issue. Solutions start with identifying who is burdened, and why—whether for lack of income, or for expensive service. That's why the Metropolitan Planning Council partnered with Elevate Energy and the Illinois Indiana Sea Grant to better understand the extent of the water burden in northeastern Illinois.