Water Affordability Study

D.C. Makes Water Affordability Possible for District Residents

In June 2022, staff of The Office of the People’s Counsel (OPC) attended the 2022 National Energy & Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC) conference in New Orleans, LA. OPC contracted the technical consulting firm, APPRISE, to conduct a Water Affordability Study for the District of Columbia (“District”) prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic. These findings were discussed during the 2022 NEUAC conference.

The findings from the study found many shortcomings in the access to financial assistance for many Districts residents prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The District is comprised primarily of multifamily properties, which made access to financial assistance for water bills virtually unattainable for many households that would otherwise be eligible for assistance. The APPRISE Water Affordability study also found that many eligible District residents simply were not enrolled in the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) Customer Assistance Program (CAP) that could assist with the monthly financial burden of their water bills. The Study notes:

  1. Of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligible residents, 78% were not enrolled in CAP.
  2. Of the non-SNAP eligible residents, 89% were not enrolled in CAP
  3. Of the eligible moderate-income residents, 99% were not enrolled in CAP.

The study did not identify “Why” there was low enrollment in the CAP program.

The great news is that the District has made major improvements in the availability of financial assistance to the largest group of District residents. The DC Water Multifamily Assistance Program (MAP) provides financial assistance up to $2,000 for residents in multifamily properties. Prior to the implementation of this program, multifamily property residents had virtually no options for financial assistance towards their water bills. In addition to the MAP program, the Residential Assistance Program (Emergency Residential Relief) assists consumers of single-family households with up to $2,000 to help income-eligible customers eliminate their past due balance. Additionally, consumers approved for emergency residential relief would be enrolled in the previously discussed Customer Assistance Program (CAP) which provides monthly discounts for residential consumers. Eligible households receive discounts on water and sewer services and/or discounts on some fees (CAP 1, CAP 2, CAP 3). Discounts range from $166 to $962 annually.

The findings from the Water Affordability Study demonstrated that while there are some challenges to water affordability, the District is ahead of many other cities regarding access to financial assistance for water bills. Since the Water Affordability Study was concluded, a major achievement in the access to water affordability programs for many District residents has been the implementation of the MAP program that aids thousands of District residents that were once ineligible for any assistance for their water bills. OPC is examining how meaningful and effective the MAP program is for consumers living in multi-unit buildings.

For more information on the programs mentioned, please contact The Office of the Peoples Counsel via telephone or email at (202)727-3071/TTY-TTD: (202) 727-2876 or info@opc-dc.gov.