Washington, D.C., can but (probably) won't shut off the White House's water over $5 million unpaid bill

President Trump drinks water
(Image credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The White House is largely empty as the partial government shutdown hits Day 20 — only 156 of the Executive Mansion's 359 full-time employees are allowed to show up for work. Secret Service agents are working without pay, desks of furloughed employees sit empty, and "the White House has stopped paying its water bill," The New York Times reports. "With paychecks failing to fatten the bank accounts of some 800,000 federal workers, the pain of this partial shutdown bit into all corners of America — even the White House, where there is often very little sympathy for those whose job it is to keep Washington running."

It is DC Water's job to keep the water running, and on Jan. 2, the Treasury Department informed the D.C.-area water utility that its largest customer — the federal government — would pay only $11.5 million of its $16.5 million quarterly water bill because of the shutdown. This $5 million past-due bill "brings up an interesting question," DC Water chairman Tommy Wells said at a recent board meeting. "Is there a time from nonpayment when we cut someone's water off?" A second board member asked, "1600 Pennsylvania Ave., is that what you're talking about?" There was laughter, WAMU reports. But the answer is yes, after 30 days.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.