Water is an essential service and must be available

It is difficult if not impossible to wash your hands frequently if there is no water flowing through the pipes in your home. Yet, even as regular hand-washing may be a matter of life and death, water service has been shut off to some American homes — for non-payment of utility bills.

Officials in many communities and public service districts have established moratoriums against shutoffs for non-payment. Their reasoning is simple: Depriving people of water service is, in a word, crazy while the COVID-19 epidemic continues to gain strength.

If anything, utilities both public and private should be making the rounds to restore water service to those cut off before the outbreak hit our country. In most cases, that can be done safely, without contact with customers. Most shutoff valves are located outside homes.

It has been suggested that federal legislation addressing the outbreak should include funding to cover water service restoration to homes where it has been cut off, and to ensure they have running water for an unspecified period of months. By one estimate, that would cost about $1.5 billion.

Such assistance was not included in the $2.2 trillion measure just approved by Congress. It should be inserted into a subsequent relief bill.

It may be a matter of life and death.


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