AWWA Policy Statement on Affordability

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) recognizes that providing reliable and high-quality water, wastewater, reclaimed water, and stormwater services at fair and reasonable rates and charges to all customers is fundamental to a utility's mission. To be financially sustainable, utilities should implement efficient business practices, promote and deploy water conservation and resource management best practices, and prudently manage capital, operating, and financing costs. 

While the budget management of utilities plays a critical role in affordability, outside factors, such as the job market, also impact the communities and families that utilities serve, creating affordability challenges that, in turn, affect utility revenue. 

AWWA strongly recommends a combination of logical policies, procedures, and assistance programs by utilities, regulators, and governmental entities to address the affordability challenges experienced by some of their residential customers.  Utilities should work closely with their local, state, provincial, and national governments to ensure that applicable laws, regulations, and policies do not impede utility efforts to address affordability challenges and evaluate new policies that allow low-income households and households facing temporary financial hardships to have access to utility services, while maintaining the fiscal sustainability of the utility.

Customer assistance should be designed and implemented to meet the unique challenges of individual communities, with consideration of applicable laws, regulations, and policies. Effective communication and education programs targeting low-income households are also important to build awareness about available assistance programs and strategies to use water more efficiently, and consideration should be given to the communication channels that can maximize reach. 

Implementing long-term solutions to meet affordability challenges entails applying both existing tools and new technology, along with modification of current government policies. Along with non-water service providers, effective and locally-appropriate solutions can deliver assistance to households experiencing financial hardship (long-term and temporary) through collaboration with existing community service programs and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), customer assistance programs operated by other utilities and industries (such as energy service providers), and community housing assistance programs.

Practices specified in this policy statement are consistent with all other pertinent AWWA policy statements.

Adopted by the Executive Committee October 24, 2018. Revised January 13, 2024.