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Water Affordability

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Elevate works with people to understand and help alleviate their water affordability challenges. We’re working with municipalities and water utilities to identify where and how water burden may be impacting residents and exploring strategies for tackling water affordability in those communities.

Water affordability is a nuanced issue – water service costs in northeastern Illinois are rising, while working class wages stay the same. From 2010 to 2019, the price of water service increased by over 57% in 30 major U.S. cities.

Water Affordability Support

Are you behind on your water bills? You’re not alone – tens of thousands of Chicagoans are, too. If you have water debt, we’re here to help you find solutions.

Water Debt Workshops

Elevate is partnering with WBEZ to host community water debt workshops. During the events we go through a step-by-step breakdown of the water billing and collections process, and provide the information and resources you need to get water debt relief. You can watch a recording of a previous workshop here.

Water Debt Resources

Water Assistance Programs

LIHWAP (Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program) is a limited, one-time, assistance program designed to help Illinois households that are facing the threat of imminent water disconnection, have already been disconnected or have past due (arrearage) balances over $250 for their water and wastewater services combined. Contact CEDA at 800-571-2332 or visit www.helpillinoisfamilies.com for more information and to apply.

Chicago’s Utility Billing Relief (UBR) program provides Chicago residents with lower incomes a 50% reduction on their water, sewer, and water-sewer tax, no late payment penalties or water shut-offs, and debt forgiveness after successfully completing one year of payments with no past due balance. Contact CEDA at 800-571-2332 or visit the UBR webpage for more information and to apply.

Utility Bill Payment Plans can be set up with the City of Chicago for qualified customers. Learn more by contacting the City at 312-744-4426 or on the City of Chicago website.

Water Affordability Research

Our research with the Metropolitan Planning Council and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant examines the extent of water burden in Illinois.

City of Chicago Water Affordability Analysis

In 2022 Elevate published a study with the Metropolitan Planning Council analyzing Chicago water billing data to show the state of water affordability in Chicago. The study found that water burden – the percentage of a household’s income that goes toward paying water bills – in Chicago is significant. Chicago’s lowest income households are the most burdened and pay on average almost 10% of their income on their water bill, double the commonly used U.S. EPA threshold of 4.5%.

Read the full analysis

Water Affordability Dashboard Tool

In 2020 we worked with the Metropolitan Planning Council and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant to examine the extent of water burden in Illinois. We created an online, interactive dashboard tool to show a high-level view of water burden in northeastern Illinois communities. You can find out the water burden in your community through our interactive tool and read the full study supporting the tool (PDF).

Open the Water Affordability Dashboard Tool

Work With Us

If you’re experiencing water debt or water affordability challenges, give us a call at 833-204-1992 or fill out the form below. Interested in working with us on an affordability study in your community? Contact us by filling out the form below.

Water Affordability: A Growing Challenge

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