EBMUD celebrates 35 years of keeping water affordable for customers struggling with water bills

More than 9,000 East Bay Area households get help with water bills through EBMUD’s Customer Assistance Program

OAKLAND – The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) celebrates the 35th anniversary of its landmark Customer Assistance Program (CAP) this week. The program helps customers who are experiencing financial difficulties to stay current with their water bills, ensuring continuous service and empowering them to pay for the public water system that delivers high-quality water to 1.4 million people.

Thirty-five years of customer assistance

In 1986, EBMUD championed the cause of fair access to drinking water at the state level and secured a change in legislation that allowed utilities to create a financial assistance program that was funded through revenue not generated through rates. EBMUD’s CAP launched in July 1987, making EBMUD one of the first utilities in California to establish such a service.

“In the richest, most powerful nation in the world, essential safety nets, such as financial assistance for safe drinking water access, can go a long way for those fighting against the grip of poverty,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who attended the August 9, 2022, EBMUD Board of Directors meeting to commemorate the CAP anniversary. “It is a moral imperative to provide life-saving services to all so that every senior, veteran, immigrant, LGBTQIA member and those battling chronic illness have equal access to clean water when they need it most. EBMUD’s Customer Assistance Program ensures that, and I am honored to recognize this agency for its commitment to public service.”

Since its inception, EBMUD has provided approximately $30 million in assistance to some 27,000 households to ensure continuous water service to their homes. EBMUD’s program has and continues to be one of the most generous in the state.

“Providing access to affordable and safe drinking water for our customers is a human right and is at the core of our mission. More than three decades of support shows EBMUD’s commitment to an inclusive and sustainable future in water service. We are proud to celebrate this anniversary,” said Board President Doug Linney.

EBMUD’s Director of Customer and Community Services Andrew Lee, was recently appointed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to help launch the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance to eligible households to help manage their residential water and wastewater bills.

Program details and growth during COVID-19 pandemic

Enrollment in CAP grew during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, EBMUD ceased water shutoffs for nonpayment to ensure unrestricted access to clean, safe drinking water – a critical component to prevent the spread of the virus. During that time, enrollment in CAP increased approximately 20 percent.

More information about EBMUD’s CAP:

  • CAP enrollees, which includes residents and homeless shelters, receive up to a 50 percent credit on their water service charge and a 50 percent credit on the water flow charge up to 1,050 gallons per month.
  • CAP enrollees receive a 35 percent credit on EBMUD’s wastewater service and flow charges.
  • EBMUD actively promotes the program through print publications, online media, and direct customer outreach.
  • EBMUD’s CAP customers in the cities of Oakland, Emeryville, and Berkeley also receive a 35 percent credit on the cities’ sewer service charges collected on EBMUD’s water bills.
  • EBMUD has partnered with St. Vincent de Paul Society of Alameda County, Richmond Community Foundation, and SparkPoint Contra Costa to manage the Water Lifeline program, a tax-deductible donation stream that supports EBMUD CAP customers who are struggling financially to pay their water bills.


The East Bay Municipal Utility District has a proud history of providing high-quality drinking water for 1.4 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. EBMUD’s wastewater system serves 740,000 customers and helps protect the ecosystem of San Francisco Bay. EBMUD is a not-for-profit public agency established in 1923.

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Nelsy Rodriguez
Public Information Representative