Emily Bacha, Vice President of Public Affairs, November 26, 2019
The Ohio Environmental Council applauds Toledo Mayor Kapszukiewicz and Toledo city council for their commitment to addressing the long-term affordability of water bills for low-income Toledoans while also ensuring they can deliver safe drinking water. In tandem with a major water rate update that was needed for essential upgrades to water treatment and water infrastructure, Toledo has committed to funding a study to explore best practices to addressing water affordability challenges and establishing a committee of residents, community, and environmental organizations to focus on this issue. This committee will oversee policy recommendations to the Toledo Department of Public Utilities targeted to ensure that equitable policy solutions continue to be discussed in the city’s efforts to balance affordability of water bills and clean, safe drinking water.
Over the past 20 years, the number of people in Toledo living in poverty has increased from 17.9 percent to 26.5 percent, according to a 2019 University of Toledo study on poverty. During that same time, Toledo water and sewer rates have more than doubled due to drinking water and sewer system infrastructure investments driven largely by Lake Erie harmful algal blooms that threaten safe drinking water. The Water Affordability and Consumer Protection Committee will look to impact water shutoffs and water affordability for low-income customers by providing recommendations on rate design and customer assistance programs.
The following statement can be attributed in whole, or in part, to Nick Mandros, Northwest Ohio Director:
“As record rainfalls, harmful algal blooms, and other climate change impacts stress our aging water systems, the need for sustained water infrastructure improvements will continue to threaten the affordability of water bills both in Toledo and across the state of Ohio. Too often these improvements increase rates and force families to choose between paying for their water and other essentials.
“Access to clean, safe, and affordable water is the foundation of a thriving city. If we take this opportunity to develop an equitable system of water distribution, all people will be provided access to clean safe water at a price they can afford. The city of Toledo has the chance to get this right for the economy and public health of the community, while creating a meaningful stakeholder process that will increase trust between the city and its residents.”