What Atlanta’s Water Crisis Says About Budgeting For Safety

hands cupped together under running water
Zain Murdock
June 18, 2024

As water gushed from the city’s corroded, broken pipes, Atlanta residents spent days without clean running water, businesses lost customers, and Mayor Andre Dickens failed to communicate what was happening. The culprit? Water infrastructure from 1875.

Without water, the city was in a state of emergency, with portable toilets set up at fire stations and residents relying on cases of bottled water. Investing in water systems requires money. Although that money can come from the federal government, this crisis sparked a long-overdue conversation over Atlanta's local budgeting, too.

Atlanta's newly approved 2025 general fund budget is 30% of the city's overall budget. However, at 30% of the $854 million general fund, policing will be disproportionately funded by the city’s taxpayers.

More money for cops, particularly Cop City, doesn't just fund policing. It defunds or diverts money from other services while causing additional harm. For example, after environmental activists warned about the consequences of destroying the Welaunee Forest to construct Cop City, the area around the construction site flooded just earlier this year.

The city may prioritize policing concerning public safety, but why can't the public have more of a say in what's important? Even for those outside Atlanta, why not question our local budgets and where money is going? Why not imagine and advocate for a future where we have that say?