Press Conference Call at 10:30 am, ET Thursday, Oct. 25
Jacksonville, FL - A new national survey of water shutoff rates has revealed that Jacksonville, Florida is among the top five cities in the nation with the most water shutoffs for overdue bills. In 2016, water customers in Jacksonville faced a 16% shutoff rate, with 41,311 households experiencing shutoffs affecting an estimated 107,409 people.
Water shutoffs are an issue of environmental justice, as under-resourced communities confront the challenge of repairing aging water systems in the era of widening disparities and climate change. Jacksonville had relatively high capital costs among the examined cities: planned projects were slated to cost over $1.2 billion over the next five years, a per household cost of more than $900 a year.
The Food & Water Watch report, “America’s Secret Water Crisis: National Shutoff Survey Reveals Water Affordability Emergency Affecting Millions,” is a first-ever nationwide assessment of water shutoffs for nonpayment. The results point to an alarming and largely hidden water affordability crisis.
[A press call to answer questions about the report will be held tomorrow, Thursday, October 25 at 10:30 am ET; Call-in: 1 (888) 466-9863; Passcode: 7279 732#]
The study looks at data for the two largest water providers in each state. The average water utility shut off five percent of households for nonpayment in 2016. Based on that data, the report estimates that 15 million people experienced a water shut off at some point that year.
In total, 15 of the 73 utilities reported shut off rates of more than 10 percent, with the highest shutoff rates mostly concentrated in the South, including in Florida.
“This is America’s secret water shame,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “As our nation continues to experience a high level of economic inequality and the price of drinking water increases, millions of people are losing access. People must choose between rent, food, medicine—the necessities of life. This disastrous situation is a direct result of misguided priorities and the federal tax cuts that have led to a critical water infrastructure crisis over the past two decades. And we know that this is probably the tip of the iceberg, because we only have data from public utilities. What kind of nation have we become to deny people drinking water?”
The Food & Water Watch report also reveals another problem: Several utilities do not track this information. Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department, the largest water provider in Florida, responded that it does not have any records about water shutoffs, and that state law does not require it to compile the data. That lack of information would hamper efforts to monitor and address mounting affordability problems.
Accompanying data visualizations (embed codes available upon request):
Interactive Map: http://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/wyUkk/14/
Interactive Chart of Survey Results: http://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/IUvzm/9/