Skip to content


Access to clean and safe water in the home is essential for human health and well-being but the trend of rising water costs in the United States is well established and growing. A recent national study projects that water bills could become unaffordable (i.e., exceed EPA guideline of 4.5% of annual income) for 36% of American households by 2022. SSEHRI researchers are conducting in-depth interviews with low-income Boston householders to examine the pathways through which unaffordable water bills and water shutoffs for non-payment affect the family’s physical and mental health. Attorneys at the NU Law School have analyzed water payment assistance plans in twelve Massachusetts communities to identify ways they could better meet basic human needs.  The research team is investigating alternative approaches to mitigate the effects of high water rates on public health.

Sharon Harlan, Martha Davis, Laura Senier, and Mariana Sarango are leading this project.


  • Martha F. Davis, A Drop in the Bucket: Water Affordability Policies in Twelve Massachusetts Communities (Northeastern University School of Law: Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy, Boston 2019). 
Award Information: Northeastern University internal Tier 1 Grant.