A new water ordinance proposal in Council prevents future privatization of the Chicago Water System, codifies the end of water shut-offs for non-payment, and implements transparent reporting requirements for annual information on water affordability measures. Several years ago, privatization of City assets were touted as a way to pay for city government. Many of those privatization efforts fell flat within a short time. As part of efforts to codify no privatization of the water system, and make water more affordable, the Mayor's office also committed to anti-privatization measures as outlined in this ordinance and crafted programs to help those most in need maintain access to water.
This ordinance does several things including:
- Prohibits the future privatization of the water system. The Commissioner of the Department of Water Management shall maintain the power and duties over the water and sewer systems. This is being implemented as a proactive measure to promote long-term affordability of water in Chicago and ensure that the systems remain a publicly owned asset into the future.
- Codifies the end of residential water shut-offs for non-payment. Mayor
Lightfoot implemented a moratorium on shut-offs due to non-payment in 2019 to protect residents fundamental right to water access; this would codify the moratorium.
- Maintains the ability of DWM to terminate water access in instances of waste, abuse of water supply, or any danger to public health.
-Maintains the ability to terminate water access for non-payment of any municipal, industrial or commercial user.
The ordinance also implements new requirements to provide transparent reports to the City Council Committees on Budget and Finance regarding water debt and a number of critical water affordability measures implemented by the City.
Utility Billing Relief (UBR) provides low-income City of Chicago residents with a reduced rate on their water, sewer, and water-sewer tax as well as debt relief for those who demonstrate they can manage the reduced rate bills for one year.
Benefits for UBR participants include:
- 50% rate reduction on on water, sewer, and water-sewer tax
- No late payment penalties or debt collection activity including water shut-off
- Debt forgiveness after successfully completing one year with no past due
Apply at Chicago.gov/UBR.
Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP)
Residents can also apply for another source of water bill assistance—the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP). This is a federally funded program, administered by the State of Illinois, to assist low-income households with paying their past due water and wastewater (sewer) bills. Chicago residents living in any type of residential property are eligible to apply if they have a past due water bill balance of $50 or greater.
The resident must be responsible for payment of the utility bill but does not have to be the property owner; renters who are responsible for paying water bills in their lease are eligible.
Visit www.cedaorg.net or call 1-800-571-2332 to learn more and apply to LIHWAP and other CEDA programs, including gas and electric bill assistance such as LIHEAP, including gas and electric bill assistance such as LIHEAP.