Don't let scare tactics dominate the debate about Baltimore's water system
Dec 26, 2017 at 3:30 PM
A water main break in the 1300 block of Charles Street affects businesses and traffic. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun video)
There’s no denying that Baltimore’s water system is in dire need of investment. From sewage spilling into homeowners’ basements and city waterways to frequent water main breaks, Baltimore leaders know that the status quo is no longer acceptable. While city decisionmakers go through the various cost calculations and risk analyses to decide about the water system’s future, it’s crucial that accurate facts and figures be considered, not false narratives put forward by those with an ideological agenda.
Unfortunately, shadowy outside groups, like Food & Water Watch (FWW), have already started peddling their usual scare tactics (“French company pitches to take control of Baltimore's water system, lobbyists join push,” Dec. 19). FWW doesn’t want Baltimore residents to know that there are more than 2,000 public-private partnerships across the country in which cities and towns work with a private water partner to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of water service. And these partnership contracts are overwhelmingly renewed, proving them to be successful.
FWW is so fundamentally opposed to private sector involvement in most everything that it would rather maintain the status quo — sewage back-ups, failing pipes, and delayed investment — than put all reasonable options on the table. As a point of reference, the six largest private water companies in the U.S. alone invest nearly $2.7 billion annually to improve community tap water systems.
Baltimore leaders should not be deceived by the distorted reality put forward by FWW. As one council member from another city noted when FWW came calling in his town, the “misinformation” put forward by the group is so widespread that “its inaccuracies forced me to disregard it in my decisionmaking process.”
Baltimore residents will be better off if the public and private sector come together to solve these challenging problems.
Michael Deane, Washington
The writer is president of the National Association of Water Companies.