Baltimore, Maryland — The day before the Board of Estimates convenes to review a proposed drinking water and sewer service rate increase, new data released today by
Food & Water Watch reveals that the increases will disproportionally affect low-income residents and seniors. Baltimore’s proposed 9.4 percent annual rate hike will result in a cumulative increase of 31 percent by July of 2018. The city is also considering a new rate structure with fixed fees, eliminating minimum usage charges and changing volumetric water charges.
According to Food & Water Watch’s analysis, households that use half as much water as typical will see a total increase of 55 percent or $235 a year by July 2018. Households that use twice as much as typical will see their bills drop by 9 percent this October, before increasing by 9 percent, or $161 a year by July 2018. But because many seniors and low-income households use less water than more affluent ones, the new rate structure will disproportionally affect those who can least afford to pay.
“A quarter of all Baltimore residents live in poverty, and over a third are already unable to pay their water service bills, said Jorge Aguilar, Southern Region Director of Food & Water Watch. “Senior citizen in particular will bear the brunt of the new service pricing structure because they live on fixed incomes. That’s why we’re calling for a more equitable rate structure that does not penalize water-efficient customers, low income households or seniors.”
Baltimore plans to spend $2 billion on improvements to its water and sewer systems over the next six years. But water and sewer service rates have more than tripled since the year 2000. Last year, the city shut off water service to more than 8,000 households, an estimated 20,000 people.
“Quite simply, Baltimore needs a water affordability plan to ensure that all households have access to drinking water and sanitation—both basic human rights. We urge the Board of Estimates to reject this rate restructuring until the city implements a comprehensive, income-based affordability plan,” said Aguilar.
Last year, the Philadelphia city council unanimously adopted an ordinance to set up an income-based water service affordability plan. Baltimore would be the second major city in the U.S. to implement such a plan. Water service shutoffs have escalated nationwide in cities such as San Diego, Detroit and Philadelphia over the past several years, as more low-income households and seniors struggle to pay escalating bills.
In addition to implementing income-based affordability plans, Food & Water Watch is urging federal lawmakers to pass the WATER Act, which would make water and sewer service more affordable for all by establishing a steady, sustainable source of funding for community water systems.
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.
Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4905, [email protected]