NCLAWater is working to pass national legislation that will ensure water and sanitation services in the United States are affordable for every person and meet international human rights standards.

The Water and Sanitation Services Affordability Act has been drafted by Roger Colton, nationally renowned lawyer/economist expert on utilities rates, policy and financing. The Act is under consultation with affected communities and advocacy groups.

Summary of The Act:

I. Every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes. All relevant Executive agencies, shall consider this policy when revising, adopting, or establishing policies, regulations, and grant criteria when those policies, regulations, and criteria are pertinent to the uses of water described in this section.

II. Encompassed within the human right to water are standards of affordability, availability, accessibility, quality, and acceptability, each of which must be met in order to fulfill enjoyment of the right.

A. Water must be of good quality, free from micro-organisms, chemical substances, and
radiological hazards that constitute a threat to a person’s health.

B. Water must be of an acceptable color, odor and taste for each personal or domestic use.

C. Water must be available in a quantity sufficient to ensure that basic human needs are met,
including sufficient quantities for purposes of personal hygiene, cooking and food
preparation, and cleaning activities.

D. Water must also be affordable for all and its cost must not compromise the realization of
other human rights.
Water must be physically and continuously accessible through adequate facilities and services to fully meet personal and domestic needs.

Title I: Nondiscrimination

The title defines and prohibits discrimination, defines violations and prohibited actions, and defines the entities who are subject to the titles provisions (drinking water, sanitation, and storm water providers). The title enumerates the authorizing and permitting agency duties with regard to non discrimination. The title incorporates the Civil Rights Act, and is patterned upon the Fair Housing Act and other relevant legislation. The title requires the Civil Rights Commission to undertake and report to the President and Congress within two years on discriminatory impacts of current practices in the water and sanitation sector.

Title II: Affordability

This title ties affordability requirements to all federal financing or funding programs relevant to the water and sanitation sector. Service providers are required to adopt affordability standards that set rates for low income households at 50-150% of the Federal Poverty Level, that ensure the household bills do not exceed [2.5% for all services (drinking, sanitation, storm water][4% for all services] of monthly household income. The title requires service providers to establish an Income based Water Rate Affordability Program (IWRAP) that allows enrollment for all households at 200% of the federal poverty level. The title requires the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to undertake a study of rates, affordability, affordability programs, and report to the Congress and the President.

Title III: Consumer Protection

The title regulates water shutoffs to low income consumers and establishes protections for low income consumers. The title establishes standards for adequate notice of the shut off and the opportunity to enter a payment plan and affordability program. The title prohibits water shutoffs to vulnerable populations: infants, children under 18, pregnant women, seniors, persons with disabilities, persons suffering from catastrophic or chronic illness. The title incentivizes small system consolidation.

Title IV: Water Bill Payment Assistance

The title establishes a federal grant program similar to LIHEAP (low-income energy assistance) for water and sanitation under the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, administered by the states. HHS is required to collect data and report on low income access to water and sanitation services to Congress.

Title V: High Cost Support

The title provides for and requires that financial support be available throughout the United States for peri- urban and rural consumers’ drinking water and on site sanitation. The title requires a comparison study of costs of drinking water and sanitation for rural and peri-urban homes, and urban homes and sets out alternative measures to address the disproportionate costs for low income consumers outside urban areas.

Title VI: Data Collecting and Reporting

The title requires service providers, authorizing agencies, and financing programs to report on annual services, including shut offs, extension of services, water affordability programs, and rates.

Title VII: Public Participation

The title requires that all decisions relating to water and sanitation services, including rate setting, be taken with adequate consultation and democratic participation by consumers of services.

Title VIII: Environmental Justice

The title requires all relevant federal agencies to adopt an environmental justice policy and practices, prohibits discriminatory siting of infrastructure in low-income, racial communities, and requires health standards around facilities to be established and enforced.

Title IX: Infrastructure Financing

The title provides for infrastructure financing that ensures equitable access to services for all low income households.

Title X: Miscellaneous

The title sets out presidential authority to implement the Act.