Thousands of low income Black Detroit residents have already had their water shut off, risking both public health and personal safety. What’s worse — the city plans to resume shut-offs tomorrow.1
Just weeks ago, under pressure from organizers in Detroit and thousands of supporters online, Governor Rick Snyder’s hand-picked Emergency Manager returned control of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) to the duly-elected mayor.2 While a small victory for local control, the move was ultimately a political ploy to provide cover for Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. Mayor Duggan’s “10 Point Plan” does little more than offer better customer service while continuing the inhumane and unjust practice of shutting off water.3
The solution is the Water Affordability Program (WAP) passed by the city council back in 2005. The WAP would provide relief to thousands and create a safety net that allows low income residents to pay on a sliding scale, based on their income. A 3-judge panel is holding a hearing on August 29th during which they could order the WAP back into effect and end the shutoffs once and for all.
While Detroiters suffer under policies implemented by an unelected emergency manager, corporations are protected and speculators are circling. Individuals with as little as $33 owed have had their water shut off without warning while the Palmer Park Golf Course which owes $437,714 still has water.4 The initial round of shutoffs were a tactic to make the city’s water rights a more attractive target to potential private investors. 5
Even with authority tenuously returned to the Mayor, his plan offers little hope to residents whose rates have risen 119% in the past decade.6 Under this scheme, relief is only available after putting down a large lump sum payment and there is no promise that the emergency manager will not seize back control and change the rules yet again.
The Water Affordability Program would provide relief to all residents living under 175% of the federal poverty line and reign in the out-of-control rates DWSD has charged.7 The WAP is the best way to restore water to thousands of residents in Detroit at reasonable rates.
Water is a basic human right and denying access to water poses a dire threat to public health. To make matters worse, earlier this month there were historic floods in Detroit. A state of emergency was declared. The flooding has caused millions of gallons of sewage to back up into waterways and basements. 8 How are you supposed to clean sewage from your basement when the city has shut off your water?
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Aimée, Rashad, Arisha, Matt, Johnny and the entire ColorOfChange.org team.
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1. “Duggan, DWSD to release updated plan on water shutoffs Thursday; moratorium extended until Aug. 25,” Metro Times, 8/4/14,
2.”Detroit’s drought of democracy,” New York Times, 7/29/14,
3.”Orr Dumps ‘Hot Mess’ of Water Shut-offs in Duggan’s Lap,” People’s Water Board, 7/29/14
4. “Detroit water department now sending shut-off crews to commercial customers,” Detroit Free Press, 7/14/14
5.”Detroit shuts off water to thousands of broke residents,” Think Progress, 6/20/14,
6. See reference 3.
7. See reference 3.
8. “Snyder declares flood disaster for southeast Michigan,” Detroit Free Press, 8/20/14,