Years of insufficient investment in aging infrastructure, climate change and regional economic decline have meant a slew of financial challenges for cities and utilities. The ability to ensure resilient and sustainable water systems has become a daunting challenge. Yet while water systems struggle to stay afloat, we believe that access to safe, affordable drinking and waste water is still a fundamental human right. A lack of affordable water can lead to an unfair burden on those that can afford it the least: low-income households that are disproportionately headed by women and/or people of color. Our water program is dedicated to helping city leaders better serve their communities while investing in necessary water infrastructure.
Water Affordability in Cities
COWS is proud to have a rich body of work focused on providing public water utility and city leaders with the resources they need to implement water affordability and efficiency practices. This work is managed by our staff at the Mayors Innovation Project, in partnership with The Water Center at Penn and
This work is generously supported by the Heinz and Mott Foundations.
Water Affordability Academy
Following a successful cohort in fall 2020, we will work with a new cohort of cities in spring 2021. This workshop provides water utility leaders with access to some of the most innovative minds in water affordability, as well as a comprehensive program focusing on infrastructure efficiencies, community engagement, and rate structures.
Community of Practice
In partnership with the Water Center at Penn, the Water Affordability COP spotlights best practices on challenges and solutions related to water affordability. The COP is exclusively local utility and city leaders.
Resources & TA
We work with city leaders across the country to provide them with the connections, tools and resources they need to implement water affordability.
A Mayor's Guide to Water Affordability
How can mayors take leadership and make water a key part of their agenda, as aging water infrastructure systems, climate change, and the general rising cost of urban living exacerbate lack of access to clean and affordable water.
Actionable Solutions for Public Water Systems
This report outlines concrete actions a city can take to keep control of its water systems and provides a background to understanding the complexity of public water systems and their current challenges.
Paying for Water Systems
This report is a primer on getting started with financing water systems, including: assessing costs and borrowing; water utility structure and financial status; and growing relationships with community leaders across a range of interests.
Integrated Water Management: A Guide for City Leaders
This report provides an overview of the potential for IWM in cities, including tools like protection of natural lands near waterways, capture of rain as a resource, an end to “waste” water, and planning for climate resilience.
Want to learn more about our work researching and supporting affordable public water? Contact Aaron Westling.