Please Note: The headlines below are the original headlines used in the publication cited at the time they are posted here, and do not reflect the stance of the Water Education Foundation, an impartial nonprofit that remains neutral.
From Stanford to the University of Arizona, from Australia to
Paris, teams of researchers have been ramping up wastewater
analyses to track the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that
causes COVID-19. Initial studies show that sewage monitoring,
or “wastewater-based-epidemiology,” could not only tell us how
much the virus might actually be spreading in a community — but
also when the virus has finally gone away.
California regulators sent a survey on Monday to 150 of the
state’s largest water providers in an attempt to shed light on
the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The State
Water Resources Control Board wants to know how economic
slowdowns related to the virus have affected utility finances
and, at a household level, how many residents have overdue
Conservative estimates from the National Association of Clean
Water Agencies suggest the industry as a whole is expected to
lose at least $12.5 billion due to the coronavirus when all is
said and done. Revenue concerns are spurring utilities to find
new infrastructure investments that can help offset shortfalls.
The persistent problem of non-revenue water is a good place to
In the midst of drought yet again, and two decades into the
21st century, California continues to operate with a water
infrastructure engineered and constructed for 20th century
climate conditions and populations. That’s true not only of the
state’s physical network of dams and aqueducts, but of its
legal and financial infrastructure as well — the pricing rules
that allocate the state’s precious liquid resources among its
40 million thirsty people. The coronavirus emergency has
highlighted some of the most serious stresses in the system.
In the midst of the pandemic and recession, the cost of
delivering safe drinking water continues to rise across
California, creating a crisis of affordability for water users
and a revenue problem for water suppliers. PPIC talked
to Robert Shaver—board chair for the California Urban
Water Agencies (CUWA) and general manager of the Alameda County
Water District—about how the state’s largest public water
agencies are thinking about this issue.
A statewide water shutoff moratorium has kept the tap on for
Californians who haven’t been able to pay their water bill in
the midst of the pandemic-driven economic crisis. But ratepayer
debt has been accruing for months now, leading to revenue
losses for water providers across the state.
COVID-19 has stopped or stalled at least a dozen Bay Area
projects designed to prevent damage from rising sea levels. And
experts say time is running out, as the latest NASA readings
show exponential increases in ocean and bay water levels around
the Bay Area.
Today, nearly seven months have passed since then, and the
state is still mired in the pandemic—so questions are beginning
to arise about how much debt is being accumulated, not only by
the state’s water providers, but by customers who can’t afford
to keep up with payments.