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NEWS: ‘Water is a human right,’ says Detroit councilwoman Watson

Councilwoman JoAnn Watson

Councilwoman JoAnn Watson

The Detroit Free Press reports today that, “Detroit has no choice but to increase water rates 9.3% for its residents because of a drop in demand and more costly projects to maintain the aging water and sewage system, utility officials told the City Council on Thursday. …If the council approves the increase by July 1, it will mean that rates have doubled in the last decade. …’Water is a human right,’ Councilwoman JoAnn Watson said. ‘It’s not a perk. You need it to survive. How can we, in good conscience, ask people who can least afford it to take another increase?'”

Circle of Blue reported last April that, “Detroit’s water utility supplied 20 percent less water in 2009 than it did in 2003. The obvious reasons why are a steep decline in Industrial activity and population. Michigan’s largest city–home to 820,000 residents, 1 million less than in 1950–is losing 10,000 residents annually. But a third important source of the department’s diminishing market is that many poor residents simply can’t afford the basic service. Thousands of Detroit residents have had their water connections cut by the city, forcing people to adopt informal methods to gain access to drinking water. ‘I’ve been to some neighborhoods where they run a hose through the window from their neighbor’s house,’ said Maureen Taylor, chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO)… More than 42,000 residences in 2005 lost their connection to the city’s water system, according to figures provided by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Taylor said. The number of homes without access has decreased since then but, according to Taylor, the exact figure remains unknown because DWSD is reluctant to provide data about the shut offs.”

Last month, the Detroit Free Press reported, “Many Detroiters are enraged over a proposed bill by state Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth, to give the suburbs control of the troubled Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Since the city owns the property, it should continue managing it, Detroit leaders have said.” A protest against this plan took place in the state capital of Lansing on February 23. Photos of that protest by James Fassinger can be seen at

The Detroit Free Press articles are at and The Circle of Blue report is at