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Statement on DWSD Water Shutoffs 2023

Monica Lewis-Patrick, President & CEO

We the People of Detroit

DWSD has made the very concerning announcement that it will begin shutting off water for Detroit customers who owe more than $5,000 and are not already enrolled in a payment plan. The WEL Coalition, a statewide collective of urban and rural water advocates, strongly condemns this harmful approach to a problem that has practical and proven solutions that respect human dignity, protect public health, and support community well-being.

Shutting off water is an unsustainable approach for both residents and utility providers. Access to water is a fundamental necessity for human life, and this issue is particularly significant in Detroit. Under the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) Agreement, Detroit residents pay disproportionately high costs to support the regional water system, including 83% of the costs for Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Control facilities that manage sewage overflows for nearly 30% of the State of Michigan. DWSD’s decision to use US Census data to target areas of Detroit "where middle- and high-income earners live" is an irresponsible and dangerous misuse of Census records. All Detroit neighborhoods contain a diverse range of incomes. A water shutoff policy that focuses on “middle- and high-income” areas targets low-income residents living within those areas.

Even after introducing The Lifeline Plan, the need to recover water payments underscores the importance of the WEL Coalition's proposed legislation, which provides proactive steps toward ensuring affordable water bills for all Michigan residents. The proposed legislation emphasizes affordability based on household income. A true water affordability plan will increase the percentage of water bills collected for utilities across the state and remove the heinous act of shutting off water as an option.

Residents with questions and concerns about DWSD’s new tactics should join the WEL Coalition and its local partners in voicing questions and concerns, either in person or virtually, at the next Detroit Board of Water Commissioners meeting on August 16 at 2pm.


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