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Baltimore Could Make It Illegal to Privatize Its Water System

As lobbyists make their latest advances in a years-long effort to privatize the city's water and sewage systems, the Baltimore City Council went on the defensive on Monday and introduced legislation that would make it illegal for Baltimore to sell or lease its water.

As the Baltimore Sun reports, a proposed amendment to the city charter will soon be introduced in a special meeting of the city council. If the council approves the amendment, Baltimore will be on track to become the largest city in the country to ban the privatization of its water.

The legislation, spearheaded by council president Bernard C. "Jack" Young, has garnered broad support. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh told the Sun she is "delighted" that the council will move to safeguard the city's water—an idea she first raised in June. If the council approves the legislation, Pugh will likely sign on, putting the proposed amendment before Baltimore voters in November.

Suez Environment, a private French company, has tried to entice Baltimore in a lease agreement that would allow the company to operate the city's water system—and then collect the money from residents' water bills.

While some have argued in favor of municipalities privatizing their water and sewage systems, a Food & Water Watch study of 500 of the country's community water systems found that, in cities with privatized water, homeowners pay an average of 59 percent more.