Assessing Water Affordability: A Pilot Study in Two Regions of California

Published: August 2013

Authors: Juliet Christian-Smith, Carolina Balazs, Matthew Heberger, and Karl Longley

Pages: 26



A pilot study in California showed that many households, even within affluent communities, routinely spent over the affordability threshold of two percent of their household income on their water bill. The number of water systems with “unaffordable” rates varied by region and measure used, with important implications for policymakers.

This report, from the Pacific Institute in partnership with Community Water Center and Fresno State University, examines both an urban and a rural case: the Sacramento metropolitan area and the Tulare Lake Basin. The report indicates that a more specific discussion of developing affordability programs is critical for California. Additionally, more work is needed to address financing considerations for water systems and their technical, managerial, and financial capacity.