Press Conference Call at 10:30 am, ET Thursday, Oct. 25
Baltimore, MD - A new national survey of water shutoff rates found that Baltimore had one of the lowest rates in the country in 2016, and since then, it has had a moratorium on shutoffs for nonpayment. The city’s practices have protected low-income households from losing water service as the city adjusts its billing system. The study also reveals a shocking lack of transparency from private water companies.
As first reported in the Associated Press, the Food & Water Watch report, “America’s Secret Water Crisis: National Shutoff Survey Reveals Water Affordability Emergency Affecting Millions,”is a first-ever nationwide assessment of water shutoffs for nonpayment. The results point to an alarming and largely hidden water affordability crisis, but Baltimore stands out as one of the only cities embarking on proactive responses to this crisis.
[A press call to answer questions about the report will be held tomorrow, Thursday, October 25 at 10:30 am ET; Call-in: 1 (888) 466-9863; Passcode: 7279 732#]
The national study looks at data for the two largest water providers in each state. The average water utility shut off five percent of households for nonpayment in 2016. Based on that data, the report estimates that 15 million people experienced a water shut off at some point that year. In total, 15 of the 73 utilities reported shut off rates of more than 10 percent, with the highest shutoff rates mostly concentrated in the South.
“Baltimore’s internal policy that paused water shutoffs is a true achievement for public water, and shows how publicly owned systems are responsive to the concerns of their customers, who ultimately are their owners,” said Rianna Eckel, Maryland Organizer at Food & Water Watch. “The City must maintain this moratorium on shutoffs until it establishes a comprehensive water affordability program. According to an analysis of Baltimore by a utility affordability expert, water and wastewater bills will become unaffordable in 2019 for more than half the city at median income.”
The Food & Water Watch report also reveals another problem: The lack of transparency from corporate operators. Only one private provider disclosed shutoff information -- a response rate of 9 percent. For example, the second largest water provider in New Jersey, Suez, declined to make shut off data publicly available, which was typical of the private companies surveyed for the report across the country.
“This behavior is especially troubling, given that private company Suez has aggressively sought to lease Baltimore’s water system,” said Eckel. “This survey reveals that privatization would hamper efforts to monitor and address mounting affordability problems. Baltimore needs to vote for Question E to ban privatization, so that such basic information about shutoffs remains publicly available.”
Accompanying data visualizations (embed codes available upon request):
Interactive Map: http://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/wyUkk/14/
Interactive Chart of Survey Results: http://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/IUvzm/9/