Ensure Access to Fresh Water for the Unemployed


Target: Kevyn Orr, Emergency City Manager, Detroit

Goal: Protect the unemployed from mass water service shutoff

Every week, 3,000 people in Detroit have their water shut off for owing as little as $150 dollars on their bills. If the shutoffs continue at this pace, over half of the city’s poorer residents could have their services suspended. Upward of 150,000 customers have overdue bills and are at risk of having their water shut off, while local experts say that an additional 150,000 could face refusal of services by the year’s end.

The bankrupt city of Detroit is seeking to recoup funds from unpaid property taxes and other bills. More than half of the city’s business and industrial buildings, including the Ford football stadium, the Red Wings’ hockey arena, and a high-end golf club are also in arrears with bill payments. While collecting from these larger bills would net the city more money, they are instead chasing after private citizens who have lost their jobs and are unable to pay.

While shutting off water and sanitation services for nonpayment is standard practice in most cities, the United Nations conventions on human rights protect those that do not have sufficient means to pay bills to avoid disconnection. Due to the city’s high poverty and unemployment rates, many of the households that are currently facing water suspension qualify for this protection.

This suspension of service is leaving some unable to cook, clean, or bathe in their own homes. Children in these houses are at risk of being taken away by child services due to the lack of running water in their homes. The city of Detroit is breaking United Nations conventions by leaving its poorest and most vulnerable citizens without running water. Your signature will demand that instead of refusing service to those that cannot pay, the city seek funds from businesses with the means to pay for their bills.


Dear Mr. Kevyn Orr,

Each week, thousands of Detroit’s poorest citizens are having their water services cut off for owing as little as $150. Many larger corporate customers such as sports arenas, golf clubs, and high-rise office buildings are also in arrears, but there has been no threat of service suspension for them.

The United Nations conventions on human rights state that water and sanitation services are not to be cut off if subscribers have no means to pay their bills. With Detroit’s staggeringly high rates of poverty and unemployment, many of these people lack the funds to pay for basic services.

Without running water, some citizens are unable to clean, bathe, and cook. In the hot summer months, water is especially important to prevent dehydration and heat stroke. Rather than suspending services from the poor and unemployed, the city of Detroit should focus on collecting its debts from larger businesses with steady income revenue. I demand that services be restored to all customers with insufficient means to pay their bills, and that all further suspensions against the unemployed be cancelled.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: stan via Flickr Creative Commons

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