The city of Detroit and the water department have finally responded to the outcry from activists and groups such as the UN. Effective immediately, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has halted all shutoffs for the next 15 days. This action was most likely also caused at least partially due to a lawsuit that was filed today on behalf of the people who have already had their water service turned off.
During the next 15 days, people who are delinquent but have the ability to pay should make arrangements with the water department to prevent the loss of water when this temporary relief ends. However, the reality is that the majority of the people who are on the pending shutoffs list do not have the money that is owed. Therefore, it is critical for activist groups and legal teams to continue working vigilantly toward a better solution for everyone before the shutoffs start happening again.
Turning off the water for households that are below the poverty level is not the right way to collect past due balances. After all, this denies these individuals the opportunity to bathe and cook, and these third-world type conditions are not conducive to finding or keeping a job that could provide enough money to work out a payment arrangement. Additionally, people who truly do not have the ability to pay due to issues such as unemployment and disabilities should not be forced to live without water because it is an essential aspect of life. Instead, humanitarian solutions should be utilized such as enabling other residents to donate $1 per bill toward a fund for impoverished residents. The Detroit Water Brigade has also suggested implementing a water affordability plan that would cap future bills at 2.5 percent of each household’s income. Hopefully some progress will be made within this 15-day grace period toward instituting some type of relief plan for the city’s residents who live below the poverty line.