Support for LAist comes from
True LA stories, powered by you
Stay Connected

Share This

News

One More Way The Pandemic Is Hitting The Poor Harder: Water Bills

6010789c3d7c92000901bbb1-eight.jpg
Deborah Bell-Holt stands outside of her home in Jefferson Park near Downtown Los Angeles on Jan. 21, 2021. Having fallen deeper into utilities debt as she took in family and friends during the pandemic, Bell-Holt fears her water will be shut off. (Shae Hammond for CalMatters)
Our reporting is free for everyone, but it’s not free to make.
LAist only exists with reader support. If you're in a position to give, your donation powers our reporters and keeps us independent.

At least 1.6 million California households, or one in eight, have water debt and could face shutoffs when Gov. Gavin Newsom ends the state of emergency.

Unlike other utilities, California offers no statewide water bill assistance. Fewer than half of Californians get water from a system that offers any. Most smaller systems can’t afford to. Those that do provide limited help to few people, like San Francisco, where just 4.5% of eligible customers get aid.

The result: less than 20% of low-income households receive any assistance. Water disconnections plagued Californians long before coronavirus — at least 500,000 people experienced shutoffs in 2019, according to an estimate from the California State Water Resources Control Board.

“We were already very concerned,” said water board chairman E. Joaquin Esquivel, but the pandemic has “further unearthed the stress cracks.”

Support for LAist comes from

South Los Angeles is at the epicenter of the crisis. While average debt is $500, at least 155,000 households — mostly in Los Angeles — owe more than $1,000.

READ THE FULL STORY AND EXPLORE A MAP OF AREAS WITH WATER DEBT:

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.