Water Management: Response to COVID-19


We know that many in our community have lost their jobs, businesses, and healthcare coverage in this pandemic. To provide support, we decided in early March to stop disconnecting residential water customers for nonpayment. Three weeks later, Governor Roy Cooper issued an Executive Order suspending disconnects by utilities statewide. That Order expired at midnight on July 29, 2020. 

Our ability to provide safe drinking water to Durham’s residents and visitors is fully funded by revenue from water bills. This is why all customers have continued to receive their monthly bills showing how much water was used and the amount that is owed, including any past due balance. We want our customers to know that cutoffs for nonpayment resumed on September 16, 2020. Other regional water utilities are following a similar timeline. If you fell behind on payments while this Executive Order was in effect, support remains available. We have trained staff in Customer Billing Services who are ready to help.

  • You will not face any late fees, interest, or penalties.
  • The Executive Order allows up to six months from July 29 to pay outstanding bills.
  • You may qualify for a grant from our Water Hardship Fund.
  • We are offering customized payment plans.

We don’t want anyone to go without water. For more information, contact us through Durham One Call at 919-560-1200 or select one of the options below.

How to apply to the Water Hardship Fund if you’re facing challenges:

If you’re struggling to pay your water bill, the City would like to help. Through the Water Hardship Fund, you can apply for up to $240 in assistance per year. The Fund is for residents who are having a documented hardship, have past-due bills, and are in danger of having their water cut off. Please complete the Water Hardship Fund application form. If contacted, you may be asked to provide identification, proof of income, a copy of your water bill, and other information.

How to apply for a Payment Plan Agreement:

We're making it easy to arrange a customized monthly payment plan. Now we're offering an electronic form, making it possible to set up a plan completely online. Please complete the Payment Plan Agreement. A Customer Billing Services staff member will contact you to confirm within two business days. 

Meter reading will continue:

We do have a request: Some of the cars parked along curbs are blocking access to water meters. Please keep in mind meters need to be clear of obstructions so workers can get data for customer billing and detect usage changes and leaks.  

How to pay your water bill instead of going to City Hall:

Water bill payments may be submitted at https://durhamnc.gov/1028/Customer-Billing-Services or by using the pay-by-phone option at (919) 560-1200, option 1. If additional payment arrangements are needed, customers should call (919) 560-1200.

In addition to existing methods of payment online, by phone, and in person, we've teamed with Western Union to set up Authorized Cash Payment Locations near where you live and work. Now you can go any one of Western Union's 40 Durham locations to pay your water bill. They're open seven days a week and in the evenings, which should be more convenient for residents who like to pay with cash but without the trip to City Hall. (You will be asked to provide account details the first time you use this service.)

Durham water is safe to drink:

We want you to know that City water remains safe to drink. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the World Health Organization, confirm the COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. Normal treatment processes like those used at our City treatment plants kill or inactivate the virus.

Why it’s dangerous to flush "flushable" wipes:

We understand toilet paper is getting hard to come by. But for the health of your family and our community, it’s important to note that “flushable” wipes are not actually flushable—despite the marketing. Unlike toilet paper, other materials don’t break down sufficiently in water. They quickly clog pipes. Wet wipes (baby wipes, pre-moistened towelettes, cleaning wipes, tissues, and paper towels) can wreak havoc on your home plumbing, septic tanks, and our City sewer system. Even the kinds of wipes marked “flushable” create clogs and damage equipment. They get caught at 45-degree elbows in home plumbing and create backups. If they make it into the sewer system, they tend to obstruct pipes and lead to sewer overflows. Finally, if they travel all the way to one of our wastewater treatment plants, they become trapped in pumps and can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

What to expect from Durham Water work crews:

Although crews will continue to appear at work sites, as City employees they will be exercising social distancing--from residents as well as coworkers (when possible). This is part of the City’s effort to keep its workforce healthy enough to continue providing much-needed services to all its citizens during this difficult time.

Possible changes in light of the pandemic:

Water and wastewater services are critical for public health, and the department will continue to operate. Water Management is an essential service. Meanwhile, we are reviewing and prioritizing how to most responsibly follow changing guidelines. This could mean anything from a moderate cutback in services to the more extreme reality of handling emergency situations only. We will update this space as decisions are made.

In-home water use assessments (updated May 2021):

The safety and well being of our customers and our employees is always our priority. We encourage customers to take advantage of a no-cost phone consultation with our Water Efficiency program Staff where we can address water efficiency and leak detection concerns. To schedule a consultation please complete our request form.

If you find that you need additional assistance, we can conduct in-home Water Use Assessments. Please note the following:

  • Water Efficiency staff will wear masks and appropriate personal protection equipment during the visit. 
  • Customers opting for an in-home Water Use Assessment will be required to also wear a mask and remain socially distanced from staff members for the duration of the visit. 
  • Program staff will terminate the onsite assessment if customers fail to adhere to these guidelines, and the service fee will still be charged to the customer. 

We also offer a number of online resources to help customers identify and repair leaks and save water.

Important information for businesses as you prepare to reopen:

If your facility has been closed or inactive for an extended time during the pandemic, you should plan to flush your water system.

Thank you for your patience and understanding:

You can learn more about the City’s COVID-19 response throughout its various departments. We appreciate this is a very stressful time for everyone in our community, and wish each of you safety and good health as we navigate this together.