Don’t Cut Off Water for Citizens Who Can’t Pay Bills


Target: Brenda Jones, President of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department

Goal: Stop water cutoffs for Detroit citizens who cannot afford the city’s high water bills

Protests and civil unrest have broken out in Detroit in response to the local government’s recent move to cut off access to water for citizens who have not paid their water bills. This move disproportionately impacts low-income and minority citizens who cannot afford Detroit’s high water bills, which are the result of a history of mismanagement and the city’s ongoing struggles to cover infrastructure costs. Tell Detroit not to leave its citizens without water and to reform its water policies.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) is making big efforts to reduce DWSD’s delinquent water accounts as part of a strategy to increase the department’s revenue collection. The Department is currently shutting off water for customers with a 60-day or more past-due balance. Under these criteria, nearly half of the city’s residential customers are delinquent. Protests and unrest have broken out in response as the public insists many people were not given appropriate notification before their water was shut off. Now thousands of children, elderly, and sick people are left without access to water.

Detroit is the victim of decades of slow recovery after the auto industry, wealth and businesses fled the city, which reduced ‎the tax base and drained the water department of its revenues. The burden of paying for water and sewer services now rests on those who remain in the city, a large percentage of which are minorities who live below the poverty line. Rates for water have risen substantially across the city and there is simply not enough money for investment in essential infrastructure. Understandably, Detroit is in a state of crisis in maintaining its water infrastructure. However, the costs of this should not be placed disproportionately on the low-income members of the Detroit community. Water is a basic human right and policy must be reformed promptly in order to allow all people access to water.


Dear Brenda Jones, President of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department,

Your department’s recent move to cut off water for delinquent water accounts in Detroit denies citizens the basic human right for access to water.  It is understandable that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) must look into ways to reduce expenses and increase revenue in the face of high maintenance costs. However, by cutting off people’s water, you place the burden of Detroit’s inflated costs disproportionately on low-income, minority communities. Because of this policy, the elderly, children, and sick people across the city do not have access to water. This petition demands that the DWSD actively and promptly stop these water cutoffs and pursue policy reform that will change the way Detroit handles its water costs.

In Detroit, a city with record high unemployment and poverty rates, nearly half of the city’s residential customers qualify as delinquent and are subject to water cutoffs. Shutting off water to all these people is a human rights violation and will add to the economic and social instability already faced by the city. Protection must be provided against shut offs for households facing hardships. The solution to this crisis must come through policy reform. Detroit has already looked into subsidizing low-income household water bills through the Detroit Water Affordability Plan. Water cutoffs in Detroit must be ended immediately and instead, a policy action that will address the root of the problem rather than push the costs onto citizens must be hastily pursued.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Danny Hammontree via Flickr

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