At the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, we recognize that water is essential to our health and well-being during the public health crisis brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic. During this crisis, we extended our moratorium on all water shut offs to ensure that no one is without water.
We initially made this decision on March 13th to extend the moratorium through May 31st, in response to the regional response to the Coronavirus. On April 24, we extended it again through July 31st. Extending the shutoff moratorium and waiving income qualifications ensures that our customers and their families will have continuous access to water during the pandemic.
Public health and safety are our top priorities, and it is now even more pronounced. Personal hygiene is critical to prevent the spread of the virus, and economic disruptions have presented unforeseen financial hardships. In moments of crisis, attending to the whole is more important than ever.
The pandemic is bringing to light many enduring water issues related to affordability, access, reliability, funding, and ongoing investment in critical water infrastructure. These issues are prevalent in times of stability but are much more apparent during the crisis we are facing.
A pledge, developed by the US Water Alliance and supported by PWSA and more than 200 water utilities across the country, creates a framework to secure a better water future.
- Ensure water is reliable and affordable for all. While many water utilities have proactively taken steps to suspend water shutoffs, these actions, coupled with revenue lost from most commercial activity, heightens the affordability challenge. Federal assistance and rate structures designed to ensure affordability are needed. All levels of government must work together to provide affordable water for all.
- Strengthen water utilities of all sizes. Now more than ever, as water utilities implement emergency protocols to respond to the pandemic, they will need further assistance to maintain operations. Government-funded grants and low-interest loans should be dedicated to water systems most impacted by this crisis.
- Close the water access gap. Many rural and tribal communities have limited access to water. Emergency measures, such as water deliveries and washing stations, are needed to provide these communities with immediate access to water.
- Fuel economic recovery by investing in water systems. Investing in our overall water infrastructure ensures that we can continue to provide reliable water services. Reinvesting in our water systems will create valuable jobs for our region, strengthen the local economy, and gives our community the resources to thrive.
By instituting a Customer Assistance Program and utilizing state funding to advance the replacement of lead service lines, we have made efforts to address these issues. There is, however, more we can do. We look forward to working with our local, state, and federal officials to assure a future where everyone can count on reliable and safe water service.