By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Shutting off water because bills haven’t been paid takes a new direction. It’s an opportunity to pay less for water.

Alex DeMetrick reports the offer isn’t for everyone.

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Clean water may be taken for granted, but it isn’t free. Baltimore announced last month it’s cracking down on unpaid bills.

“This is not about going out and just shutting people’s water off. This is about trying to get them to pay the amount that’s owed,” said Rudy Chow, director, Baltimore Department of Public Works.

In the city, that’s 23,000 delinquent accounts, totaling $40 million owed. For some, money is always tight.

“We as seniors, we only get a certain amount of money,” said Harriet Ladson.

“There’s a lot of people that are in low income housing that really can’t afford it,” said Chuck Munden.

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And for seniors, the city rolled out a new plan that would reduce water bills by 39 percent, provided:

“You have to be 65, that’s one. You have to be a Baltimore City resident, that’s two. You have to have income less than $25,000, household income, a year,” said Arnold Eppel, Baltimore Aging and Care Services.

“That’s a very good idea because with senior citizens now with the income they have, some of them can’t even eat. Some of them can’t even buy their medicine,” said Robert Skinner.

But it was made clear a reduction isn’t forgiveness. Here’s why: Baltimore’s water system continues to sprout leaks–water that has already cost a lot of money to transport and treat.

Collecting payments is critical to keep an old system running.

“Yes it does. And with repairs, it does cost us money to repair these and we do want people to pay the bills,” said Dale Thompson, deputy director, Baltimore Department of Public Works.

But some now have the chance to pay less.

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For those who want to apply for the water bill discount, applications and help to fill them out can be found at most senior centers in Baltimore.