AWWA Policy: Affordability
August 3, 2018

The following new AWWA Policy Statement on Affordability has been approved by the Technical and Educational Council for member comment. 

Comments on the policy statement will be reviewed by AWWA staff and forwarded to the Executive Committee if the comments are minor or referred back to the originating body if the comments are substantive. The Executive Committee will review forwarded policy statements for approval and final action.

Affordability

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) recognizes that providing reliable and high-quality water, wastewater, reuse, and stormwater services at just, reasonable, non-prejudicial, and non-discriminatory rates and charges to all customers is fundamental to a utility's mission. To be financially sustainable, utilities optimize expenditures through operating efficiencies, implement water conservation and resource management best practices, and prudently manage capital, operating, and financing costs. However, even with sound planning and budgeting practices, some utilities are faced with affordability challenges among some of their low-income residential customers. Such affordability challenges can occur in any community, regardless of size, location, demographic makeup, and income of the customers. 

AWWA strongly recommends the adoption of policies and procedures by utilities, regulators, and local and state governments 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 and policies do not impede utility efforts to address affordability challenges and evaluate new policies that allow disadvantaged households to have reliable access to utility services. 

Low-income customer assistance can take many different forms that should be designed and implemented to meet the unique challenges of individual communities. Effective communication and education programs targeting fiscally challenged households are also important to build awareness about available assistance programs and strategies to use water more efficiently.

Implementing long-term solutions to meet affordability challenges entails applying both existing tools and modification of current local and state policies. Along with partners, effective locally appropriate solutions can deliver assistance to financially challenged households through collaboration with existing community service programs, customer assistance programs operated for other utilities (such as energy service), and community housing assistance programs.

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

This is a proposed policy statement to be adopted by the Executive Committee.

Submit comments by September 3, 2018.