Government Shutdown Causes $5 Million Water Bill To Go Unpaid

The federal government can't pay its water bill, and local officials in D.C. have pondered the thought of cutting off the service to the White House.

Donald Trump drinks from a glass of water while on stage during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The federal government can't pay its water bill, and local officials in D.C. have pondered the thought of cutting off the service to the White House.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are feeling the affects of the partial government shutdown, which is on day 19 and has no immediate end in sight. Now, as local D.C. radio station WAMU reported, President Donald Trump and other White House officials may be subject to a pretty major consequence as well.

According to the news outlet, D.C. Water’s chief financial officer Matthew Brown told board members during their first meeting of the year that an individual from the Treasury Department had contacted the water authority on Wednesday, January 2. The Treasury Department official had reached out to inform them that the federal government would be unable to pay a $5 million chunk of its $16.5 million quarterly water bill.

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

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

While it seems that the board members’ discussion was had in jest, D.C. law states that — after 30 days of nonpayment — the water authority has the option to shut off the service. Furthermore, after 60 days, a lien can be placed on the property in question, until a payment is made in the full amount owed.

“Conceivably, D.C. Water can shut off services for nonpayment to any customer,” said Vincent Morris, a spokesperson for the company. He noted, however, that it is a “last resort” option that the board would “never want to do.”

Typically, representatives reach out to customers to work out a payment plan when they are unable to pay, Morris explained, though the process is “slightly different” for the federal government.

“We know they’re good for the money, it’s just a question of when it’s actually going to be transferred.”

And though many people would expect D.C. Water to be frantic over the fact that they are not receiving such a hefty payment on time, CFO Matthew Brown said during the recent board meeting that it would take about a year for the company to see their nonpayment as a real problem.

“That would be a shortfall of about $20 million dollars, and we would have to have a conversation about how to move forward,” he explained.

The partial government shutdown began shortly before Christmas Day, on December 22, and is preparing to go into day 20 with no immediate relief on the horizon. President Trump has threatened to keep the government closed for “months or even years” if his demand for border wall funding is not met by Congress.

Morris did not indicate that D.C. Water would threaten to shut off the White House’s water supply to aid in a deal being made between the White House and Congress, though he did tell WAMU that it was “an interesting idea.”

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