Baltimore Advocates Urge Full Implementation of Water Affordability Law as City Approves New Water Rate Hike

With Deadlines Missed and Ongoing Rate Increases, Advocates Testified at Board of Estimates to Urge the Department of Public Works to fully Implement the Water Accountability and Equity Act

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Clean Water

For Immediate Release

Baltimore, MD — Today, the Baltimore City Board of Estimates voted to approve a water rate hike, increasing rates by three percent a year for the next three years. The rate schedule would increase a typical household’s water, sewer and stormwater bill from $118.46 a month currently to $130.21 a month, beginning in July 2024. It would be the smallest water rate increase in two decades. 

Members of the long-standing Baltimore Right to Water Coalition testified at the Baltimore City Board of Estimates meeting to applaud the City’s efforts to minimize the rate impact on households, and demand the full implementation of the Water Accountability and Equity Act, legislation that makes any rate increase less burdensome for City residents. It has been nearly one year since the legislation’s legal deadline for implementation and still the City has yet to take critical mandatory actions. 

Ongoing delays are rampant in implementation of the City’s signature water equity law, which was legally required to be implemented nearly a year ago, July 1st, 2021. The Water4All affordability program launched in February of this year, over 7 months after the deadline, and still falls short of critical enrollment thresholds. In addition, the Department of Public Works (DPW) has yet to establish the Office of the Water Customer Advocate or the Committee for Office Oversight. The Coalition demanded that the DPW fulfill its legal obligations to fully implement the Water Accountability & Equity Act, in light of ongoing rate increases.

Rianna Eckel, Baltimore organizer with Food & Water Watch and convenor of the Baltimore Right to Water Coalition, a coalition of dozens of organizations that has been advocating for accountable, equitable, affordable water for all Baltimoreans since 2016, said:

“We applaud the efforts of the Mayor to minimize the rate burden on households in our City. But at the end of the day, a smaller rate increase is still a rate increase. Baltimore has a signature water affordability law on the books to protect low wealth residents from rate increases of any size — all that remains is action from DPW to expand enrollment in the Water4All program and implement the rest of the law. We urge the Mayor to fully implement the Water Accountability and Equity Act to ensure affordable and accountable service to all households in the City. Successful implementation will minimize future water rate increases by increasing payment rates for low income families, as well as restoring trust in billing accuracy with an expedient, transparent billing dispute process led by an independent Customer Advocate. Providing affordable water service is a win-win for households and for the city.” 

Jaime Lee, Director of the Community Development Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law and a member of the Baltimore Right to Water Coalition, stated, “The Advocate’s job is to listen to customers, help them resolve water issues, and craft policies that treat customers more fairly. Hiring a strong, independent Advocate would be proof that the City puts the interests of its constituents first.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]