Water Rates 10 Times Higher in Black Chicago Neighborhoods
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Water Rates 10 Times Higher in Black Chicago Neighborhoods

(IStock/Damir Khabirov)
Black residents in Chicago are getting their wallets flooded by water bills.
Mostly Black neighborhoods in Chicago have water debt ten times higher than similar white areas in the city.
Some homeowners are “unable to pay off the snowballing debt.” Data stems from the “City of Chicago Water Affordability Analysis,” an Elevate and the Metropolitan Planning Council report.

The nonprofits reportedly looked at millions of water bill records between 2015 and 2020. The reports show that water has become too costly for the poorest residents in the nation’s third-largest city,

As of April 2020, the overall water debt owed to the city came from new charges. The rest of the debt came from delinquent bills, WEBZ Chicago reported. About 20% of customers with unpaid bills owe more in debt than a total year’s worth of water bills. A new water tax rate supposedly pushed charges up in 2017 and 2020.

“It’s a city-wide problem; no one is getting away from the fact that water rates are going up. It’s just having a more severe impact on low-income communities and also Black and Brown communities,” said Anthena Gore, a strategist for Elevate’s water program WEBZ Chicago reported.

“We’re looking at another version of the income gap, racial income inequality, and how it’s playing out specifically in the water sector.”

The report validated WEBZ’s 2021 water debt investigation. It documented how Chicago leaders turned the city’s water supply into a revenue stream for years. It stated, “tens of thousands couldn’t keep up with the rising cost of water, and Chicago homeowners racked up over $421 million in water debt.”

Black residents are still being hit harder financially.

Homes without meters are in primarily Black and Latino neighborhoods in Chicago. Properties without water meters are charged actual water usage but for an estimated amount of water used based on a property’s size and the number of plumbing fixtures.


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