Texas: Suspend Water Utility Shutoffs

Bayou City Waterkeeper
March 21, 2020

Bayou City Waterkeeper, Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, and Texas Appleseed asked the board of the Public Utilities Commission of Texas to immediately suspend shutting off utilities during the coronavirus crisis.

UPDATE Monday 4/27: Houston Public Works has extended a local moratorium on water utility shut-offs until the end of May.

UPDATE Friday 4/24: Bayou City Waterkeeper joined the Coalition for Environment, Equity, and Resilience and its partners in asking the City of Houston to extend a moratorium on water utility shut-offs and adopt additional recommendations related to water access and affordability during COVID-19.

UPDATE Tuesday 4/14: Bayou City Waterkeeper joined a nationwide coalition in asking Congress to authorize funding to offset water utility bills, provide other financial assistance to residents, and improve aging local water infrastructure.

UPDATE Friday 3/27: The Texas Public Utility Commission voted yesterday to ban private utilities from cutting off power and water services to Texans who have lost jobs and income during the COVID-19 crisis for at least the next six months. The PUC created a COVID-19 Electricity Relief Fund to help Texans who lost their jobs due to coronavirus pay electricity bills. These are good first steps, though more action and financial assistance will be needed over the long-term.

Earlier this month, Mayor Turner committed to suspend turning off Houston residents’ water utilities for non-payment through the end of April. Across the United States, other states, cities, utility commissions, and utilities have shown similar leadership and compassion by keeping customers’ lights, gas, phone, internet, and water on during the coronavirus emergency. Not only do we believe access to clean water a basic human right, continued access to hot water, information, and electricity will be absolutely critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19. Bayou City Waterkeeper and its partners have therefore urged the Public Utility Commission of Texas to issue an order prohibiting utility disconnections during this unprecedented crisis.

Read the full letter here.

To read more about the serious and sometimes tragic impact of utility shut-offs in low-income communities, read the NAACP’s “Lights Out in the Cold” report. To learn more about our efforts to keep water rates low for Houston residents over the long-term, please read more about our lawsuit to repair Houston’s broken wastewater infrastructure.