Among US cities, San Francisco has the highest rates of residents who lack running water, an indoor bathtub or shower, or a flushing toilet. A disproportionately high number of these households are renters and Black or African American. Disparities in access to safe, reliable, and affordable water, sewer, and power services have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, unaffordable housing, declining incomes, and racialized wealth gaps.
In 2020, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) passed a resolution condemning systemic racism, committing to advancing racial justice, the human right to water and to affirmatively address racial and related social inequities. This resolution acknowledged the important role SFPUC can play in protecting the human right to water, sanitation and power and advancing equity.
We were proud to partner with SFPUC to explore and define this role. Essential to SFPUC’s success was ensuring equitable access to and affordability of its services. We assessed the efficacy of the agency’s existing customer support programs and additional opportunities to improve the affordability, accessibility, and equity of its services for all San Franciscans regardless of their housing status, and other mechanisms for operationalizing the human right to water, power, and sewer across the agency.
Our analysis of the accessibility and affordability of water, sewer, and power services in San Francisco was based on county-level demographic analysis, academic and grey literature, and interviews with peer utilities, industry experts, and SFPUC employees. The findings from this analysis have informed the development of an agency-wide affordability and accessibility policy that will operationalize the human right to water, sanitation, and power across all aspects of the agency, including rate-setting, capital planning, customer assistance program design, and other consumer-focused programs.
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
- Demographic analysis
- Vision and policy planning
- Capital planning tool development