Press Release

Water Affordability: Current Efforts Are Just a Drop in the Bucket

February 8, 2019

Cleveland, OH (February 8, 2019) – Yesterday, Great Lakes Today and American Public Media released a new investigative report – So Close, So Costly. The nine-month investigation examined the cost of drinking water in six Great Lakes cities: Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit, Buffalo, and Duluth. The reporters found costs rising at alarming rates, impacting poor families the most.

In response to the report, Alliance for the Great Lakes Policy Director Crystal Davis released the following statement:

“We live on the shores of the world’s largest freshwater system. It is unacceptable that people around the Great Lakes cannot afford clean, safe drinking water in their homes. The investigative report So Close, So Costly details in stark terms two critical problems facing the Great Lakes region.

First, water and sewer infrastructure in most Great Lakes communities is in desperate need of repair. And it is going to cost a lot to fix it. The price tag to repair and replace drinking and wastewater infrastructure in the eight Great Lakes states is estimated to be a whopping $179 billion over 20 years.

Second, water stresses are not shared equally. People of color and low-income residents are disproportionately impacted. We know that this is not coincidental. When we talk about these water issues, we’re really talking about an intersection of forces that result in black, brown, and low-income communities being most likely to struggle with water stress.

So the question becomes twofold: How do we make sure Great Lakes water is safe, clean and affordable from the source to the tap? And how do we ensure that the solutions we put forward equitably serve all Great Lakes communities?

Some assistance programs to help individual ratepayers exist, but they are not enough. In Cleveland for instance, some limited water bill assistance is available but only to homeowners, not renters. And as the So Close, So Costly report details, existing programs are often confusing and difficult to access.

We applaud Great Lakes Today and American Public Media for bringing much needed attention to water inequities around the lakes. This problem will not be solved overnight but there are steps elected officials can act on now, as detailed in our 2019 Federal Policy Agenda. The Great Lakes region, and the nation, must acknowledge the hard truths of unequal access to water. We urge our elected officials to take action on this critical issue.”


Media contact:
Jennifer Caddick: (315) 767-2802,