The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is considering a temporary moratorium to prohibit all water shutoffs this winter for residential customers who don’t pay their water bills.
The moratorium, which would last from December through March, is meant to help customers who rely on radiators to heat their homes, but cannot afford the cost of water.
The PWSA board plans to vote on the measure at its next meeting in two weeks. In the meantime, members plan to study how it would impact cash flow as well as contracts with other entities.
PWSA Interim Executive Director Bob Weimar said it’s important to provide low-income customers with payment relief at a time when the authority is resolving past billing problems and expects service rates to rise.
“As the rates need to increase, we become more and more concerned about affordability,” Weimar said. “We’re beginning to look at how can we provide that bridge, that ability to help them.”
In 2016, PWSA carried out nearly 2,100 shutoffs, about 700 of which occurred from December through March, according to a spokesperson. Currently, PWSA gives customers 80 days to pay a bill before shutting off their water.
PWSA recently established an affordability committee to develop programs to help low-income ratepayers cover the cost of water. A coalition of local organizations, called Our Water Campaign, has been working with the committee to implement a customer assistance program by April of 2017.
Aly Shaw, an environmental justice organizer with Our Water Campaign, said the program could include subsidies for low-income residents. The affordability committee is also exploring a system where PWSA would charge customers based on their income rather than how much water they consume.