Photo by Ángelo González
Photo by Ángelo González

Baltimore City has officially replaced its quarterly billing cycle with a shiny new digitized monthly system.

The monthly cycle brings its own software upgrade called BaltiMeter, which breaks out the costs for water and sewer usage, fees for infrastructure and account management and the city’s so-called rain tax (known also as Bay Restoration and Stormwater).

City residents are likely to enjoy a shorter billing cycle and the new system’s ability to show real-time water usage. Customers who log onto a portal will be able to see their hourly water usage data and, if they so wish, use it to reduce their consumption.

Another important change to the city’s water billing system, however, is its elimination of a minimum water usage fee. Under the system of yesterday, the Department of Public Works (DPW) charged customers for 7,400 gallons every three months – roughly $100 worth – regardless of whether or not they used that much, Baltimore City Paper’s Edward Ericson Jr. reports.

Ericson makes the case that vacant property owners can now expect to leave their units unattended and unfilled without having to pay into the city’s water system, which seems a bit like a reward. With a nearly 10-percent water rate hike scheduled for each of the next three years for DPW customers, picking up the slack of vacant property owners doesn’t seem like an exciting prospect.

The flip side of that argument is that city residents can also be rewarded if they examine their usage and reduce their consumption to lower their bills. But with the water rate hike happening, their attempts may be in vain.

DPW noted in a release that the first bill may reflect charges for 45 days, as the city is shifting from a quarterly to a monthly cycle. The department has compiled some answers for other questions that customers may have, and has a calculator ready if you want to try to calculate the change in your bill.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...