Blue Water Baltimore

February 2024 / Case Studies / Environment
Flowers and plants in a drainage system.

Blue Water Baltimore (BWB) plays an important citizen watchdog role in watershed protection and enhancement by delivering on its mission to strengthen communities, improve public health, and advance water quality improvements. The organization employs targeted advocacy to address adverse impacts of inadequate stormwater and wastewater systems through infrastructure improvements and deploys green infrastructure assets such as trees, bioswales, and rain gardens.

Over the past 10 years, Abell funding has supported BWB’s operating budget – including partial salaries for water quality scientists and outreach, advocacy, and communications staff – in an effort to decrease pollutants in Baltimore’s waterways and build climate equity and resiliency among Baltimore City communities.

Like many other municipalities, Baltimore City is under a federal court consent decree to fix its failing sewer system and end sewage overflows into streams, rivers, and the Baltimore Harbor. The court granted BWB status to intervene in the federal and state enforcement suit in 2016, enabling direct input on issues of public health, transparency, violations, and enforcement. Of particular concern are the thousands of sewage backups into residents’ basements that occur each year. BWB has consistently argued that systems solutions, not solely household prevention, are needed to reduce the preponderance of basement backups in residences. BWB has successfully advocated for robust and easily accessible financial assistance to households and onsite cleanup to reduce and eliminate the burden of cleanup on residents.

Working directly with communities and residents, BWB has found that those impacted by the environmental and health impacts of failing infrastructure and the changing climate are most often low-income communities of color. By amplifying concerns and building capacity for advocacy, BWB helps facilitate timely and accountable completion of urgent public health and environmental goals with city, state, and federal agency partners, particularly for residents on the front lines of environmental injustice.

“BWB’s range of programs, staff, and volunteers not only work alongside and show residents how to do their part by getting out and working to restore their communities and the environment, but also by using water quality monitoring, science, advocacy and our legal system when necessary to hold polluters accountable for preventing pollution and reversing any damage they have caused.”

– Bob Summers, BWB Board Member and former Maryland Secretary of the Environment


Photo courtesy of Blue Water Baltimore.