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Puget Sound Wastewater Service Affordability Analysis

Determining if households face an undue financial burden from wastewater bills before implementing measures that may increase them further

  • $80K

    Study Cost

  • Seattle, Washington

    Seattle, Washington

Wastewater study reveals that increases to utility bills pose a greater hardship for low-income households

Since 2018, concerns have been rising about the potential ecological impacts from treated sewage flowing into the Puget Sound. State regulators calling for improvements to wastewater treatment plants could result in increased utility rates, leading to questions about affordability for households already struggling with increasing wastewater bills. This prompted the Puget Sound Partnership to reach out to our team to conduct a study examining the financial burden households already faced prior to any improvements being implemented.

Collaborating with the Puget Sound Institute and Western Washington University, we analyzed current sewer bills for 80 utilities in the waterway’s region. Our findings showed that compared to median income earners who paid less than 2 percent of their income for sewer bills, low-income earners faced bills ranging from an average of 4.38 percent up to 10 percent of their income for similar service. This indicated that low-income households may need financial help to address the impact of rising wastewater bills, even before initiating improvements to wastewater processing.

As a result of this study, the Puget Sound Partnership is looking into strategies to cover improvement costs without further increasing the sewer bills of local households.

At a Glance

  • Puget Sound Partnership
  • Puget Sound Institute
  • Western Washington University
Meet Our Team

Susan Burke, Principal

Wise economic stewardship involves working within a team to allocate scarce resources that improve outcomes for society and the environment.

Susan Burke


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