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Thousands of San Jose residents behind on water bills

A white water meter.
Pat Joyce
Flickr / Creative Commons

Many San Jose homes and businesses have been behind on water bills for the last two years. The city’s three water suppliers acknowledge that those delinquencies are due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

From March 2020 to September of this year, the state declared a moratorium on water shut-offs, and extended it until December. So far, there’s no word from the state that it’ll extend this moratorium again.

According to a San Jose city audit, more than a thousand customers have unpaid bills with San Jose’s Municipal Water System, as of June. That’s an average of one out of every 26 customers. In an interview with San Jose Spotlight, a city spokesperson said that the average delinquent residential customer owes about 650 dollars.

The Municipal Water System, known as Muni Water, is working on two things: getting state money for debt assistance, and helping people access that assistance. The audit found that no customers were enrolled in pre-existing assistance programs, so the city is developing online forms it hopes to be more user-friendly.

Two private companies also supply water to San Jose. At the moment, San Jose Water -- which serves the large majority of San Jose residents -- offers payment plans and an assistance program. After the moratorium ends, they’ll add a 72-day grace period. Great Oaks Water Company offers payment plans for late bills. They’ll extend a 60-day grace period before shutting off water service.

I'm an audio content creator interested in people-powered media and making knowledge accessible to and engaging for all. I believe in a queer of color approach to knowledge production and storytelling. I got my start in broadcast journalism at KCSB 91.9 in Santa Barbara and am currently working with API (Asian Pacific Islander) Equality--Northern California on a podcast documenting intergenerational queer and trans API connection. My favorite things to listen to are This American Life, Jour 1 by Hildegard, my friends' hot takes, and the round tapping sounds of a mechanical keyboard.