Engage in Advocacy

Blue Water Baltimore works to advance policies and regulatory actions that protect and improve the health of local waterways and surrounding communities while amplifying local voices, centering equity, and building a powerful movement for clean water. 

If you support a clean environment and strong, healthy communities, join our advocacy efforts today! Sign up for advocacy alerts to stay informed and take action.

Baltimore City Policy

To make the strongest impact on our target watersheds (Jones Falls, Gwynns Falls, Baltimore Harbor, and Herring Run), BWB primarily engages in advocacy at the local level in Baltimore City and County. These are our current priorities in Baltimore City:

Preventing Residential Sewage Backups

Sewage backups are a big problem in Baltimore City. When heavy rain overwhelms Baltimore’s aging pipes, sewage has no place to go but up and out into people’s basement floor drains, toilets, showers, and washing machines. Backups also occur during dry weather for a variety of reasons, mainly because the City’s old, cracked pipes deteriorate and eventually collapse over time as a result of poor maintenance. These backups happen thousands of times each year, put residents’ health, homes, and livelihoods at risk, and disproportionately affect Black residents in a clear example of environmental injustice.

We’re collaborating with coalition partners and allies on the City Council to expand the City’s two support programs for residents facing sewage backups. In 2021, DPW conducted a feasibility study about expanding the Expedited Reimbursement Program (ERP) and the Sewage Onsite Support (S0S) program. On October 12th, 2022 the City Council will hold a hearing about this study. We are also working to eliminate sewage backups through our work monitoring the Sewage Consent Decree.

TAKE ACTION! Attend the 10/12/22 City Council Hearing on the two sewage backup assistance programs!

  • Testify! If you want to testify during the hearing, you can speak for up to 2 minutes in person or virtually. You can also submit written testimony up to 24 hours in advance of the hearing (by 10am on Tuesday the 11th). Here is a testimony guide with more information.
  • Learn more about sewage backups and the City’s support programs in our joint report with Clean Water Action and from our fact sheet.
  • If you’ve experienced a backup, report it through our confidential form and complete this survey to let us know if you reported the backup to the City and if you received assistance.

Fighting Climate Change

From raw sewage backing up into peoples’ basements to the urban heat island effect exacerbating hot temperatures, climate change poses significant risks to Baltimore’s communities, waterways, and environment. This year, we worked with coalition partners and Councilman Mark Conway to pass Ordinance 21-0161 requiring City government operations to be net-zero by 2045. You can learn more about that bill and the strengthening amendments we advocated for in this blog post.

The Baltimore City Council is still considering two additional bills in Councilman Conway’s “climate package” to help mitigate some of the worst effects of climate change and move the City toward a more sustainable future:

  • Procurement – Zero-Emission Vehicles (Ordinance 21-0159) requires the City’s fleet of vehicles to be zero-emission (plug-in hybrids and battery electric cars) by 2040. Watch the January 18th, 2022 hearing here.
  • Building Code – Cool Roofs (Ordinance 21-0160) requires reflective, solar, or green roofs on new buildings and additions to existing buildings. Watch the January 13th, 2022 hearing here.

TAKE ACTION! Tell the City Council and Mayor Scott to pass the remaining bills in the climate package!

Expanding Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Photo by Blue Water Baltimore

Every time it rains, trash, bacteria, heavy metals, and other pollutants are washed from city streets and roofs into local streams and the harbor. Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) is a cost-effective way to improve water quality and combat flooding and stormwater runoff. GSI also improves air quality and makes cities cooler during hot summer months.

  • If you’ve experienced flooding, we want to hear from you! Report through our confidential form here.
  • Learn more about GSI by watching this short video
  • You can also read our 2019 GSI report which outlined several recommendations to improve the process for permitting voluntary GSI projects in the City, including updating the City Code, developing a GSI Task Force, and increasing the portion of Stormwater Fee revenue that supports GSI. Stay tuned for opportunities to advocate for these recommended changes!

Protecting the Tree Canopy

Photo by Blue Water Baltimore

Trees clean our air and water, reduce flooding, lower temperatures and energy bills, improve public health and social cohesion, and beautify our neighborhoods. A healthy city of Baltimore’s size should have a tree canopy of at least 40%. Baltimore City currently has a 27.4% tree canopy. In order to continue to grow our city’s tree canopy, we must protect our existing trees.

One way to improve protections for our trees is by setting aside maintenance funding. In August 2022, Councilman Burnett introduced introduced a Charter Amendment to create a Forest Preservation Fund. This Fund would be used exclusively for forest management activities in Baltimore and would be funded by a percentage of the City’s existing energy tax. If the City Council passes the bill, the amendment will be placed on the ballot for voter approval. Stay tuned for updates on this bill as it moves through the City Council and hopefully onto the ballot! 

Baltimore County Policy

Reducing Harmful Plastic Pollution

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

Plastic bags pollute our communities, clog our storm drains and streams, and harm plants and animals. Like other plastic products, plastic bags contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental justice concerns at every stage of production and disposal, and they cannot be effectively or efficiently recycled. Banning single-use plastic bags is an important upstream solution that protects our environment and helps build toward a zero waste future. 

We are working with coalition partners to urge the Baltimore County Council to pass an effective and equitable plastic bag law that bans plastic bags, places a fee on paper bags, and exempts purchases made with SNAP or WIC assistance programs from the paper bag fee to mitigate disparate impacts for low-income residents. If your organization would like to sign onto a statement in support of these “key components” of an effective and equitable plastic bag law, email tsmithhams (at) bluewaterbaltimore.org. 

Maryland State Policy

When engaging with state-level advocacy issues, BWB seeks to represent the interests of the waterways and people within our watersheds. Maryland’s 2022 legislative session ended on April 11th. Check out this blog post to learn about what passed, what didn’t, and what we’ll be coming back for in 2023!


Questions about our advocacy work?

Contact Taylor Smith-Hams, tsmithhams [AT] bluewaterbaltimore.org 

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