And if you still can afford it, it’s going to get a lot more expensive.
Universal access to water isn’t much good if people can’t afford that water. That’s true in the developing world, but it’s also true in the U.S. A new paper from the Michigan State University predicts that “the percentage of U.S. households who will find water bills unaffordable could triple from 11.9% to 35.6%” over the next five years.
This isn’t just a concern for the people who need water, either. It’s also a big problem for water utilities, because, if so many people can’t pay their bills, then the water companies have trouble covering their costs, which will then be passed on to the customers who can afford to pay.
The EPA says that water and wastewater services shouldn’t cost more than 4.5% of household income. That means that bills can become unaffordable because of both rising prices, and also lowering incomes. This puts Mississippi in the high-risk category, says lead author Elizabeth Mack, because many families make less than $32,000. Many other southern states are also at risk.