1 1 (April 15, 2020)

handle is hein.crs/govcvyu0001 and id is 1 raw text is: 

               Researh Sevice

COVID-19: Selected Public Water Service


April 15, 2020
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has increased attention to several issues regarding
the provision of public water services. These include long-standing water-rate affordability concerns, the
importance of clean water to public health, and the financial sustainability of some public water systems
(whether publicly or privately owned). The spread of COVID- 19 has raised specific concerns regarding
the continuity of residential water services needed to support hand-washing and other public health
measures-particularly as more customers may become unable to pay water bills because of job losses or
reduced income. Policy options being discussed to alleviate such impacts and help ensure the continuity
of water service include providing temporary assistance to households and/or water systems.
The power to control water service shutoffs generally lies with state and local governments. In response
to the pandemic, most state public utility commissions have directed private/investor-owned utilities (and
in some cases other systems) to continue service during the pandemic. The governors of at least nine
states and Puerto Rico have issued executive orders prohibiting publicly and privately owned systems
from disconnecting service. Four of these states are also requiring water systems to reconnect service to
residences where water had been shutoff for nonpayment. Also, numerous water utilities have committed
to providing water service to non-paying customers. In light of such state and utility actions, municipal
and rural water associations and others have urged Congress to provide financial assistance to public
water systems to help cover the cost of delivering water services during the pandemic.

Water Service Pricing, Affordability, and Disconnections

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that the pricing of water services covers
the costs of providing service, for both operations and maintenance and capital expenses. Customers'
water bills typically support operations and maintenance costs and sometimes long-term capital
investments. Among water systems, pricing structures vary (e.g., tiered rates to encourage water
conservation or flat rates for all users). While water systems generally have flexibility in determining a
pricing structure, certain privately owned systems (and, in some states, publicly owned systems) are
subject to state and local requirements that control rate increases.
Several factors may influence the cost of providing water service, including investments needed to repair
aging infrastructure or to comply with evolving regulatory requirements. Some water systems offer
                                                                  Congressional Research Service

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