New Rates, Assistance Program Will Help Assure Baltimore Provides Essential Water Services
Wednesday Jan 9th, 2019
On November 6, 2018, Baltimore residents voted overwhelmingly to protect Baltimore’s water and wastewater systems from privatization. This was an historic step for Baltimore. Protecting these vital systems also means preserving them, and doing so requires significant investment.
On January 9, 2019, the Baltimore City Board of Estimates approved a request for three consecutive years of increases of about 9 percent in water, wastewater and stormwater charges, beginning July 1, 2019. More information about the rate package and affordability program is available here.
We take it for granted when we turn on the faucet that clean, safe water will flow. But there are very real costs to providing drinking water, treating wastewater, and safely mitigating polluted stormwater runoff. These essential systems do not receive any financial support from City tax dollars, so all funding comes from customers’ monthly water bills.
The three massive dams that hold back the reservoirs of raw water require constant monitoring and maintenance. Filtration plants make the water drinkable, and pumps ensure that all 1.8 million people who need our water get it, through thousands of miles of pipes. New meters automatically tell us each hour how much water our customers use. Sewage pipes convey wastewater to two of the largest treatments plants in the state, where they return water back to the environment even cleaner than we found it. We have maintenance crews ready to respond to emergencies, and teams of engineers constantly looking for ways to keep the system operating more efficiently.
Baltimore has one of the best water and wastewater systems in the nation. But we have not always treated them as such important assets.
“For years, the City neglected to raise its water rates over time. That resulted in deferring necessary maintenance, a long list of needed investments, and a federal wastewater consent decree that tells us how we must spend our money,” said Baltimore City Department of Public Works Director Rudolph S. Chow. P.E. “We have begun to take on these expensive investments in the last few years and are nearing the point when we will see the magnitude of requested rate increases start to decline, and reach a steady state of modest, inflationary adjustments.”
The City’s approved rate increases are coupled with the enhanced customer assistance program, Baltimore H2O Assists, which will reduce the water and sewer usage charges by 43 percent, as well as remove the Stormwater Remediation and Bay Restoration fees from the monthly water bills of eligible residential customers. Customers who are currently enrolled in the City’s Senior Citizen Water Bill Assistance and Hardship Exemption programs will be eligible, as will all customers whose household income meets 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
Mayor Catherine E. Pugh noted, “No city can thrive and grow without a reliable, safe supply of drinking water and environmentally responsible wastewater and stormwater systems.”