New Economic Impact Study Shows Lack of Basic Water and Sanitation Services Costs US Economy Over $8.5 Billion per Year

June 28, 2022

DigDeep, with support from Altarum, today released a new report that shows the lack of basic water and sanitation services is costing the U.S. economy over $8.5 billion per year.  The study, with the economic analysis conducted by Altarum’s Corwin Rhyan and George Miller, is the first to calculate the cost of allowing millions of Americans to live without running water or a flush toilet at home, and how these costs reverberate throughout the country’s economy.

In this report, DigDeep analyzed a wide variety of public health and economic data to calculate the price tag of life without a toilet or tap. The study population includes 539,000 households or 1.57 million Americans—and the findings are striking.  In addition to quantifying the costs, the report also calculates the economic benefits of closing the US water gap and provides four recommendations for regulators and policymakers. 

Download an executive summary and the full report: “Draining: The Economic Impact of America’s Hidden Water Crisis.”

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DigDeep is a human rights nonprofit working to ensure every American has access to running water and sanitation. DigDeep is a leading voice in research, workforce development, and policy advocacy around water access in the US.  Additional advisory support was provided by the American Heart Association, the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

This economic impact study is a follow-up to the US Water Alliance and DigDeep’s groundbreaking 2019 report, ‘Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States: A National Action Plan,’ which revealed that over 2.2 million Americans live without running water or a flush toilet at home.

Altarum’s analytic modeling has been employed to quantify the most pressing public health issues, measuring both the full impacts of inaction and the economic benefits of interventions. Building on previous analysis, the online Value of Lead Prevention tool enables policymakers and community leaders to calculate the cost of childhood lead exposure in their state and the economic benefits of adopting a variety of interventions to reduce the risk of lead exposure. Altarum recently measured the cost of household water shutoffs due to nonpayment in the city of Philadelphia. 

Altarum is a nonprofit organization that works with federal and state agencies and foundations to design and implement solutions to improve the health of individuals with fewer financial resources and populations disenfranchised by the health care system. We achieve measurable results by combining our expertise in public health and health care delivery with technology, workforce training and continuing education, applied research, and technical assistance. Our innovative solutions lead to better health for beneficiaries and better value for payers.