The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is knocking on doors—not to collect what is owed—but to turn off the water at any homes owing at least $150, or who are behind on two months worth of water payments. Yes, you need to pay your bills. And if you don’t pay those bills, those services are taken away. Water, however, isn’t a service. Safe access to clean water is a basic human right. The lack of running water in a home is grounds for being charged with child neglect.
So far, over 17,000 homes in Detroit have had their water turned off. Detroit Water and Sewerage Department spokesman Bill Johnson estimates 89,000 customers owe near $91M to the city of Detroit, and are under threat of losing their access. Amid rallies, protests, and public outcry, the department has put a hold on turning off water for 15 days, as of July 21. They insist this is not permanent and is only to give the city a chance to conduct outreach to residents about their options.
The city is working with residents to put them on payment plans, and says they will work with anyone who genuinely cannot pay their bill. With 38.1% of Detroit’s population under the poverty line, how do you decide who is destitute enough to be worthy of access to clean water and who is not? In the meantime, neighbors are borrowing from neighbors. People are spending money they don’t have on bottled water to keep their children hydrated. Some are even turning a profit by illegally turning the water back on. When those residents are caught with water turned back on, they are fined a hefty fee.
Last year, the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy. They need the money. The city began shutting off water as debt piled up, but has been targeting individuals and not the companies in Detroit that also owe, to the tune of an estimated $30M. Is anyone knocking on the doors of the hockey arena, the football stadium, the high-end golf course, or the commercial businesses? Is the city turning off their water? The answer is a resounding, “No.”
A group has started an online campaign to bring attention to this issue. More importantly, they are working directly with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to link those who need assistance with those who are willing to give.
Turn on Detroit’s Water takes your email address and asks you to indicate the amount you would like to pay. They then match you with a Detroit resident in need. After you verify the account and payment due, your donation goes straight to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department on behalf of the resident.
Aggregate made a donation and it couldn’t have been easier—or more rewarding. So many of us say if our neighbors were in need we would help them in a heartbeat. Here’s your chance.
Image by Mike Boening. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.