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Chicago Water Exemption Update

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Until two years ago, Chicago public charities were eligible for exemption for their water bills, in recognition of their beneficial services to city residents and beyond. That changed after Mayor Emanuel took office, when city officials revoked the decades-long exemption and replaced it with a fee structure that would escalate by 20% increments in subsequent years. 

Religious leaders took umbrage - particularly those in buildings without water meters, which are expensive to install in many older facilities, and those already operating sacrificially to serve at-risk children, the homeless, and other vulnerable persons. 

Late last year, the City of Chicago responded with a compromise based on nonprofits’ financial means. Churches and other nonprofits with less than one million dollars in assets now qualify for the full 100% exemption. Nonprofits with assets between one and ten million dollars in assets qualify for a 60% exemption. Meters are still required, but city assistance may be available in cases of demonstrated financial hardship. An additional condition is that the nonprofit must have a “water conservation plan.”

Additional information about eligibility for nonprofit water exemption, including the water conservation plan, is available at

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