Americans are struggling to afford their rising water bills, and thousands of poor families have had their service shut off. This growing crisis has a dark irony: It’s especially acute in a region where water is most abundant — the Great Lakes.
For months, Rev. Falicia Campbell kept a secret from her congregation, her friends and even her adult children. It was a secret she was ashamed to divulge: She was living without running water.
Like a growing number of Americans, the 63-year-old Chicago resident couldn’t afford to pay her rising water bills. She inherited her mother’s house in Englewood, a poor neighborhood on the city’s South Side, and last year received a $5,000 bill.
Campbell is partially blind and lives on a fixed income from disability payments. She dedicates most of her time to helping her community. Her church includes a resource center that provides food and shelter for poor and homeless people.
She couldn’t pay off her water debt, and in August her water was turned off. The Chicago water department offered her a payment plan but required a more than $1,700 deposit before restoring her water. She didn’t have it.
Here she was living a few miles from Lake Michigan, one of the largest sources of fresh water in the world, and she didn’t have running water in her house. Without it, her daily life became a struggle.
“I just said, ‘Oh God, whatever I did, forgive me,'” Campbell said. “This was a lesson. I had my lights off before, my gas off. But water, I didn’t realize how important water was until I didn’t have it.”