An Experiment in Making Water Affordable: Philadelphia’s Tiered Assistance Program (TAP)

Elizabeth A. Mack, Sarah Wrase, Joanne Dahme, Susan M. Crosby, Martha Davis, Melody Wright, Ravonne Muhammad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The ability to pay for water and wastewater services is a growing issue in the developed world. To this point in time, utilities have helped customers grappling with affordability issues using different types of customer assistance programs (CAPs). Income-based billing approaches differ from CAPs in that bills are structured so as to be affordable for customers at the outset. Recently, the City of Philadelphia implemented an innovative program to work towards resolving the affordability problem in their city using income-based billing. This tiered assistance program or TAP structures bills for water, wastewater, and stormwater services to program enrollees’ income. Given the innovative nature of the program, this paper describes the rollout of TAP and assesses the impact of the program on customers and utility revenues. The paper closes with a critical assessment of TAP and considerations for utilities evaluating the implementation of similar programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-449
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • sustainability
  • urban areas
  • water affordability
  • water policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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