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Third World America: Thousands In Detroit Living Without Water For Years


Source: | Original Post Date: December 14, 2015 –


This is what it’s like to live without water.

Ever since Detroit began shutting off water for poor residents unable to make payments in Spring of 2014, a large number of Detroiters have been forced to live without a critical resource the UN calls a basic human right.

Over 40,000 Detroit residents have had their water shut off in the past year due to nonpayment of water bills. Water rates have been rising steadily for Detroit residents — many of whom are living below the poverty line — since the shutoffs began. Detroit implemented an 8.7 percent water rate increase in June of 2014, and a 7.5 percent rate increase earlier this year. Roughly 3,500 residents had their water shut off in April of 2014, and another 4,531 properties had their water disconnected the following month. As of last Thursday, over 9,000 Detroiters are currently facing water shutoffs.

So how do all of these people get by without running water?

Detroit residents whose water has been shut off are resorting to collecting rainwater in barrels just to be able to flush their toilets. Others walk down the street to a neighbor’s house and fill buckets to bring back home. 66-year-old Fayette Coleman, who lives on just $954 per month in Social Security benefits, told the Detroit News she only flushes her toilet after bowel movements and bathes by heating water for sponge baths.

“One thing I really miss is washing my clothes,” Coleman said. “Once every couple of months, when I’m able to get some money, I can go to the laundromat.”

Poverty has been a persistent struggle for Detroiters who are living in a city dominated by auto manufacturers that have largely outsourced most of their labor, and by a city government that allowed urban sprawl to displace black-owned business districts over a period of several decades. Using December 2015 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Christine MacDonald of the Detroit News made a map showing that out of 26 ZIP codes in the Detroit Metro Area, 47.5 percent of households in 10 of those ZIP codes are living in poverty. Roughly 40 percent of households are living in poverty in another 8 ZIP codes. Only 2 ZIP codes have poverty rates of 15.6 percent or less, which is the approximate national average.


“I have $3 to my name,” 53-year-old Billie Williams told the Detroit News. Williams owed a balance of $677 and had his water shut off last month. “Everything looks like it’s falling down around me.”

Roughly one-third of Detroit’s 200,000 households are currently on payment plans for 60 days of unpaid water bills.

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