WASHINGTON — As federal requirements to meet specific environmental standards drive up water bills in many U.S. households, a joint issue brief from the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) proposes that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reassess its definition of affordability, according to a press release.

The EPA’s affordability criteria are intended to relieve undue economic burdens on communities facing federal water mandates.

Common federal water mandates include requirements to upgrade wastewater and drinking water treatment facilities and to address overflows of stormwater. However, in some communities, the costs for these mandates can reach several billion dollars, stated the release.

According to the three organizations, EPA’s affordability criteria rely too heavily on median household income and underestimate the effect of rising water bills on low-income, fixed-income, and renter-occupied households.

“For residents and businesses in affected cities, the costs associated with federal mandates are often reflected in water and wastewater bills that must grow faster than household income and the general rate of inflation,” said Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the Conference of Mayors. “This creates significant affordability challenges for lower-income households.”

Read the entire press release here.