The District of Columbia’s Water authority board debated whether they can shut off water to the White House after the federal government missed its quarterly payment due to the president’s border wall shutdown.
WAMU, American University’s NPR station, reported Tuesday that DC Water officials noted during their first meeting of 2019 that they received an email from the Treasury Department announcing it won’t be paying for $5 million of the federal government’s $16.5 million water bill.
“That brings up an interesting question,” DC Water board chairman Tommy Wells said at the January 3 meeting. “Is there a time from nonpayment when we cut someone’s water off?”
“1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” another board member asked, laughing. “Is that what you’re talking about?”
WAMU noted that DC law allows the water authority to “shut off water to a customer for nonpayment after 30 days” and place a lien on the property until a full payment is completed after 60 days.
“Conceivably, DC Water can shut off service for nonpayment to any customer,” DC Water spokesperson Vincent Morris told the NPR station. “We don’t do it very often, it’s a last resort, we never want to do it.”
Morris added that in the case of the federal government, the General Services Administration — the same agency that found funds to reopen Old Post Office on the Trump DC hotel property — would be likely to pay those bills.
“It would probably be, just off the top of my head, approximately a year before it begins to be a real problem,” DC Water CFO Matthew Brown said at the meeting. “That would be a shortfall of about $20 million dollars, and we would have to have a conversation about how to move forward.”
When WAMU asked Morris if the threat of shutting off water to the White House could be used as a bargaining chip, the spokesperson said it was an “interesting idea.”
“Water is leverage,” Morris said. “No one wants to go without it.”