Maybe this could end the government shutdown

It appears that due to the government shut down the US government is delinquent on its water bill if $5 million to the Washington DC water authority, which has raised the question of what should be done about it

The government is the largest water customer in the city, and because of the ongoing federal shutdown, its water bill is past due. The large unpaid bill left DC Water officials wondering what their options are, and whether turning off water to the White House is among them.

“We received an email Wednesday, January 2, from an individual at the bureau of fiscal services at the treasury,” said Matthew Brown, chief financial officer at DC Water, speaking during the water authority’s first board meeting of the year. He went on to read from the email: the federal government would not be paying $5 million of its $16.5 million quarterly water bill.

“That brings up an interesting question,” responded DC Water board chairman Tommy Wells. “Is there a time from nonpayment when we cut someone’s water off?”

“1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, is that what you’re talking about?” asked another board member, to laughter.

Under D.C. law, the water authority may shut off water to a customer for nonpayment after 30 days. After 60 days, a lien can be placed on the property in question, until full payment is made. Residential customers are charged a 10 percent fee for late payment (plus a $100 shut-off fee if water service has been turned off).

So could DC Water really shut off water to the White House, if the shutdown continues and unpaid bills pile up? Could the water authority put a lien on the presidential mansion? “Conceivably, DC Water can shut off service for nonpayment to any customer,” says DC Water spokesperson Vincent Morris. “We don’t do it very often, it’s a last resort, we never want to do it.”

Asked whether DC Water might use the threat of a water shutoff to help broker a deal between the White House and Congress, Morris said it was “an interesting idea.”

“Water is leverage,” said Morris. “No one wants to go without it.”

Abruptly cutting off water to poor people because they cannot afford to pay is wrong. But in this case, the government is not paying because of its own obstinacy. Turning off the water to the White House might end the shutdown quicker than anything else.

Of course, shutting off water to the White House is never going to happen, but it turns out that after that report was published, many people seemed to be intrigued by the idea of doing just that and there were a lot of snarky responses that were hilarious as well as wonky debates of the relationship between the federal government and local authorities

My favorite was the person who said that the only thing that will budge Trump is shutting off his supply of Diet Cokes.


  1. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    Wouldn’t cutting off the water supply also shut down the toilets?
    Which leads to a corollary question: is there also a DC Sewage company that could shut down the sewer?

  2. komarov says

    If the water to the White House were shut off I’d expect them to fly in gourmet table water and have interns pour it in the reservoirs of toilets and anything else can be filled. The high and mighty seat of government has to maintain standards after all. That and the taxpayer can foot the bill when the shutdown ends.
    Nonetheless, the more pressure can be applied to end the shutdown the better its is for everyone, lest those in charge realise how much money can be saved by not paying (low-ranking) government employees, not to mention all the other “money sinks” that have been suspended. Once that sinks in and becomes law the Republicans would probaly celebrate it as their greatest victory over “big government” yet. If people are unhappy with the result they can always call their representative, assuming they can still afford a phone.

    P.S.: Shutting down the sewers might be a new tack on the much-touted “drain the swamp”-agenda by rendering the swamp uninhabitable. In that spirit, perhaps the municipality could recoup some of the money owed by using the property at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a landfill.

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