Baltimore City Passes Monumental Water Affordability and Equity Bill

November 18, 2019

After banning privatization, Baltimore once again leads in water justice

Today, the Baltimore City Council voted unanimously to pass the Water Accountability and Equity Act, a sweeping overhaul of the city’s outdated water billing system. It sets up a percentage-of-income affordability program for low-income households, a customer advocate’s office with a mission of promoting fairness to customers, and a structure for appealing high bills and other problems commonly faced by customers. Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young introduced the bill last December when he was city council president and plans to sign the bill into law.

Baltimore has become the second city after Philadelphia to set up a percentage-of-income water affordability program. Detroit and Chicago are considering similar legislative efforts, and as the nation’s water affordability crisis deepens, other communities will likely pursue this model.

“Baltimore has shown its commitment to being a leader for water equity in this country,” said Rianna Eckel, Senior Organizer Food & Water Action. “In November 2018, Baltimore became the first major city to ban water privatization, and with that vote, the city committed itself to a public solution for its growing water billing issues. This legislation is the culmination of years of efforts to improve the public system. The new percentage-of-income water affordability program will tackle our city’s water crisis head on and ensure all Baltimoreans have access to affordable water. ”

“I am committed to ensuring their successful implementation to make our water system work better for all Baltimoreans,” said Mayor Jack Young. 

“This legislation is focused on structural change — on accountability and transparency within the Department of Public Works,” said City Council President Brandon Scott.