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
- Elevate’s Water Affordability: Need to Know fact sheet gives an overview of how you can save on water costs at home.
- WBEZ’s water resource guide answers frequently asked questions about water debt, links to resources, and has a breakdown of Chicago’s water bill structure.
- The Citizen’s Utility Board offers utility and water bill analysis and more information on water saving tips, LIHWAP, and understanding your water bill.
- Read a case study about water affordability challenges in Chicago, “Plumbing Leaks and Water Debt.”
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
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%.
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).