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Could the White House lose its water during the shutdown?

DC Water also has the option to put a lien on properties of customers who don't pay their bills

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

The folks at DC Water — the capital's water authority — said recently that maybe they'll cut off the water to the White House if the shutdown continues to drag on, the New York Post reported.

In a report Wednesday, the Washington Post revealed that the U.S. Treasury Department emailed DC water "to say that it 'will only collect and remit' about $10.5 million of the $16.5 million that federal agencies owe the city water and sewer authority for the second quarter of fiscal year 2019." The $5 billion shortfall is due to the ongoing partial government shutdown.

How did DC Water react?

According to WAMU-FM, the subsequent meeting of the DC Water Board was ... interesting.

As the station noted, the government is the largest water user in the city. So when your biggest customer doesn't pay its bill, what do you do? That prompted an idea from the DC Water Board Chairman Tommy Wells. From WAMU:

"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.

Now, under the district's law, DC Water is permitted to shut off water to a consumer who doesn't pay for 30 days, as WAMU noted. And residential customers get dinged with a 10 percent fee when their payments are late. Also, if you're more than 60 days late, the authority can put a lien on your place.

Would DC Water really put a lien on the White House or cut off its water supply?

Nah, it was pretty obvious that this was a joke. But it did lead to some interesting debate, WAMU later reported — including a discussion about the fact that DC Water buys its treated Potomac River water from the feds, via the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

One last thing…
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