Wednesday: Water For All: A panel on Baltimore’s water affordability crisis

Aug. 9

Baltimore City’s water bills have more than tripled since 2000 and are set to increase even more, the result of a long-deferred investment in the city’s pipes, reservoirs and water treatment plants. All-in, the drinking water, wastewater and storm-water upgrades cost more than $4 billion—money the Department of Public Works has borrowed and that rate-payers will have to pay back over the next couple of decades. The work is hard and exacting, involving ripped-up streets and shrinking ponds, among other inconveniences. But the main problem is that thousands can’t pay their bills and, when they fall far enough behind, risk losing their homes to tax sale investors. The bills are not always accurate, as an audit last fall found 70,000 inaccurate ones. The city is now billing monthly instead of quarterly to, according to DPW, avoid shocking low-income people with a big bill. The new system also ends the “minimum usage fee,” meaning people who use little water could save money. But the new billing system is more complicated and harder to track for errors, and the city has been slowly letting private contractors take more of the reins. Del. Mary Washington has fought the water war for years, forming a tax sale task force and writing op-eds to the Sun demanding that access to potable water be defined as a basic human right. She is joined by Attorney Komal Vaidya and activist and Real News Network producer Eddie Conway for a panel discussion about water policy and what you can do to make it just. 7:30-9:30 p.m., Red Emma’s, 30 W. North Ave., (443) 602-7585, redemmas.org, free. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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