Affordable access to water is an issue that affects every household in the U.S. and is made even more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Martha Davis, a professor of law at Northeastern who has been promoted to University Distinguished Professor.
In the U.S., water authorities often shut off water when customers fall behind in their payments. But without access to water, families may be forced to go to other people’s homes, or outside to wash their hands or buy water, she says. In response, some states, such as Michigan, have ordered a moratorium on water shut-offs while shelter-in-place orders are in effect. Davis argues that the pandemic should make communities rethink how they handle the question of access to affordable water.
Experts project that by 2022, 36 percent of households in the U.S. will struggle to pay their water bills. A 2019 report written by Davis in collaboration with Sharon Harlan, a professor of health sciences and sociology, and Laura Senier, an assistant professor in sociology and anthropology and health sciences, looked at policies regulating the affordability of water in 12 communities in Massachusetts and how local and state laws across the U.S. influence access to drinking water.