Maryland State

The Fight for Water Justice Continues!

Water is a human right and a basic necessity, but it has been a source of oppression for thousands of people in our city. Since 2014, JUFJ has worked in coalition with organizational partners and impacted residents, including through the Baltimore Right to Water Coalition, to fight for water justice. This was JUFJ’s first local campaign in Baltimore and while we’ve achieved some major wins over the past few years, the fight continues.

Water in Baltimore is plentiful, but its cost is staggering. Since 2000, the price of water in Baltimore City has quadrupled — and it’s going up again in 2020. Some residents already pay more than 10% of their income just for water — the United Nations has stated that water bills should not exceed 3 percent of a household’s income. And in 2017, thousands of Baltimoreans risked losing their homes to tax sales catalyzed by unpaid water bills — often just a few hundred dollars — in a City notorious for sending out incorrect water bills, with no due process to dispute them. We are part of a national movement to ensure that all people, especially vulnerable and low-income Baltimore residents, can get the water they need. It’s a very simple goal with a complicated policy path.

In November 2019, our coalition won the biggest systemic change in our campaign for affordable and equitable water access: the groundbreaking Water Accountability and Equity Act. Under this law, residents will only pay what they can afford for water, and there will be a dedicated office to help them with their bills. Renters, who routinely face eviction for unpaid water bills, will finally be protected by this law. While this was a huge win for Baltimore, the law has yet to be implemented by the Department of Public Works (DPW), despite deadlines required within the law. We continue to fight for the law’s full and immediate implementation to protect residents across Baltimore and set a national standard for water justice.

The campaign’s previous wins include:

  • In 2014-15, the One Baltimore coalition, which we were a member of, successfully fought an effort to  privatize our City’s water system.
  • With the Right to Housing Alliance, we stopped the city from shutting off water for thousands of regular people — while corporations that owed thousands in unpaid tax bills had all the water they wanted.
  • The Baltimore Right to Water Coalition, led by JUFJ and Food & Water Watch, won a one-year and then a permanent ban on the city selling people’s homes for unpaid water bills.
  • In the 2018 election, we supported a winning ballot measure permanently preventing the privatization of Baltimore’s water system.

This campaign has been a long five-year journey, but we have made it this far because of the determination of our partners and coalitions. Together we have held our city’s leaders accountable, brought injustices to light, and demanded access for all Baltimoreans to the basic human rights of water and shelter.

Stay tuned for actions you can take to help ensure the full and timely implementation of the Water Accountability and Equity Act. Want to get involved in the campaign? Email rianna@jufj.org to connect with our team.

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Campaign Staff