Wednesday, June 3, 2015

All Eyes on Detroit: The Movement for Affordable Water Gathers Momentum

Last weekend, Detroit activists hosted the International Social Movements Gathering for Water and Affordable Housing, drawing attendees from 47 states and several countries to exchange information and strategize about water access and affordability. 

The discussion was vigorous and sobering.  Those gathered heard from several individuals whose water has been cut-off, some for several years, and we learned that Detroit's assistance plan, inadequate as it is, is only available to those who owe less than $2000 in back bills.  Others are simply told that they aren't eligible for help.  Meanwhile, water shut-offs are ongoing.

Writing in 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation lauded United States’ past leadership in the 19th and 20th centuries.  As a result of the investments in infrastructure during those periods, she noted, “the vast majority of people living in the United States [have] . . . .access to clean and safe drinking water and sanitation.”

But physical infrastructure is cold comfort when the price of household water is out of reach.  As predicted by scholars and analysts for the past few decades, as water costs have risen and income inequality has increased, the numbers of households for which water is simply unaffordable has reached higher and higher levels.  At the same time, growing social stratification and poor-bashing has made actions like those in Detroit politically possible.  Even the most vulnerable residents, seniors and children, are not exempted.

In the short term, Detroit needs an affordability plan that takes into account the ability to pay. In fact, studies have shown that such plans are a win-win for municipal water suppliers, since more customers are able to pay something toward their bills.  Long-term solutions, though, require a more profound change in mindset, and a return to the public-minded approaches that motivated our predecessors to invest in the general welfare of our cities for the common good.

| Permalink


Rainbarrels for doing dishes, laundry, flushing toilets ? No one mentions helping themselves out of a hole by being resourceful.

Posted by: Willi | Jun 8, 2015 7:43:33 AM

Post a comment