Drowning in debt: Chicago alderman wants federal funds to address water debt crisis

A Chicago alderman is asking the city to use federal funds to help families dealing with sky-high water bills.

According to a recent WBEZ report, the cost of water in Chicago has tripled since 2011.

Tens of thousands of Chicagoans who mostly live in Black and Latino neighborhoods are in more than $421-million in debt from unpaid water bills.

Some residents have bills ranging from $11,000 to $40,000.

One reason for the higher prices is former Mayor Rahm Emanuel's decision to raise water and sewer rates to fund infrastructure programs.

Another reason is leaking pipes.


25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez says his recent proposal would fix both issues.

"What we are asking [is] the federal funding that we are receiving, the estimate is over $1-billions dollars just for water infrastructure projects, is used to help and relieve underserved and vulnerable communities," Sigcho-Lopez said.

The alderman's proposal asks that low-income neighborhoods get priority when it comes to distributing infrastructure funds.

It also asks the city to absorb millions of dollars in water debt.