PWSA: After the Crisis

This is a guide to help residents of Pittsburgh navigate discount programs for their water and sewage bills. The information provided covers the four water and sewer utilities in the city. 

Are you eligible for help paying your water and sewage bill?

The answer is yes if your income is 150% of the federal poverty level or less. The dollar figure depends on how big your household is. Consult this graphic from the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority [ALCOSAN] website.

How do you apply?

If you’re eligible, you can call the Dollar Energy Fund to sign up: 1-888-282-6816 or 866-762-2348.

To get the maximum discount, you need to make sure you ask to apply for discounts for:

  • your sewage bill (Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority [PWSA])
  • your water bill (PWSA or Pennsylvania American Water)
  • AND your ALCOSAN sewage treatment bill.

What do you need to apply?

PWSA and Pennsylvania American Water customers only need a recent bill. You will be asked to verbally attest to how much income you make. 

To get your additional ALCOSAN discount, you will need a recent bill, your Social Security number and proof of your household’s monthly income. 

What if your name is not on the water bill because you rent?

Your name must be on the water bill to be eligible. PWSA renters can apply to add their name to the bill by filling out this form, getting your landlord’s signature and emailing it to info@pgh2o.com. Renters who add their name to the bill are also eligible for ALCOSAN’s discount program.

You’re eligible for a discount. How much help are you eligible for?

That depends on where you live in Pittsburgh.

Everyone who is eligible for a discount from ALCOSAN would have $11.67 per month knocked off the bill.

In the South Hills, Pennsylvania American Water customers who are approved for a discount would receive an average of $19 off your bill though it varies slightly based on how much water you use. You are also eligible for a flat $8.51 discount from PWSA off your monthly sewage bill. If you combine all three discount programs, your total discount would be about $39 per month or $468 per year.

Nearly everyone else in the city is a PWSA water and sewage customer and, if their income qualifies, is eligible for a flat $35.78 discount. Combined with the ALCOSAN discount, your total discount would be exactly $47.45 per month or $569 per year.

If you live in the far eastern portion of the city and get your water from Wilkinsburg-Penn Joint Water Authority, you are not eligible for a discount on your water bill. But you could still be eligible for PWSA and ALCOSAN sewage discounts. Your total discount would be $20.18 per month or $242 per year.

What if I don’t live in the city of Pittsburgh?

About 75% of the residents in Allegheny County are at least eligible for a discount from ALCOSAN if they fall within the income limit. ALCOSAN serves 83 of the 130 municipalities in the region. You can check here to see if you are a customer.

You can also check with your local water and sewage provider to see if they have a discount program. 

What if I’m still struggling even after the discount?

You can ask Dollar Energy if you are also eligible for a hardship grant.

PWSA and Pennsylvania American Water customers may be eligible for additional hardship grants, up to $300 for PWSA and up to $500 for American Water every 12 months.

For Pennsylvania American Water, you can earn up to 200% of the federal poverty level and receive a hardship grant ($43,920 for a family of three; see a table here). 

For PWSA, the cutoff is still 150%. 

PWSA has applied to increase the level of eligibility to 300% of the federal poverty level starting in 2022. A family of three that earns $65,880 per year or less would be eligible (see a table here).

What if I am behind on my water bill?

All the water utilities are offering the ability to set up a payment plan, although the details of how long customers have to pay off their bill depends on the utility. 

PWSA customers who set up a payment plan will receive an additional $15 discount for each payment they make.

Where can I find more information?

For PWSA: https://www.pgh2o.com/residential-commercial-customers/customer-assistance-programs

For ALCOSAN: https://www.alcosan.org/our-customers/bill-pay-assistance

For Pennsylvania American Water: https://www.amwater.com/paaw/customer-service-billing/customer-assistance-programs/

Oliver Morrison is PublicSource’s environment and health reporter. He can be reached at oliver@publicsource.org or on Twitter @ORMorrison.

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Oliver reports on K-12 education for PublicSource. Before becoming a journalist, Oliver taught English and drama in the Arkansas Delta for seven years. He has previously written education features in New...