Despite being surrounded by the largest collection of freshwater lakes in the world, thousands of Detroit residents—most of them low-income people of color—are finding themselves without access to fresh water because of actions by the city’s water department that advocates say are in violation of Detroiters’ human rights.
In March, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD)announced an effortto collect more than $119 million in delinquent payments from more than 150,000 customers in an effort to reduce the department’s $5.7 billion debt load—which it acquired after the city, and then its water and sewage bonds,were downgradedby multiple major credit agencies. As part of that plan, in April and May the department shut off water service at a total of 7,556 locations. In June, the department redoubled those efforts, shutting off service at 7,210 locations in one month alone.
Community advocates have spoken out against these tactics, and have organized to protest policies that they say are denying residents a basic human right to water.