Water woes add to Detroit’s third world status


JUN 24, 2014, 3:53 PM 

Water woes add to Detroit’s third world status

Adding to the narrative that Detroit is a third world city is the recent international media attention surrounding potential lack of water for its residents.

Activists last week appealed to the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights for relief from the possible shut off of water for almost half of the city’s water customers due to delinquent bills. The report submitted to the United Nations states that access to water is a human right and appeals to the international body to have the federal government preserve the water security of Detroiters.

This isn’t a plea for Ethiopians, Palestinians or Sudanese but for water access for American citizens and residents in one of the world’s richest nations. How embarrassing.

Customers in general do need to be responsible for paying their bills. Everyone also understands that bankrupt Detroit has serious fiscal issues.

Detroit, however, has one of the best and most efficient water systems in North America. Residents of America’s poorest major city also pay almost double the national average in water prices. Adding to this, the inept city council just passed a 9 percent hike on water prices last week.

Cutting off homes’ water for being in the whole as little as $150 to the water department is ridiculous. The public health concerns down the road for cutting off the water to hundreds of thousands of people who are barely surviving is shameful not just to the city but for the entire state, especially since Detroit is under an emergency manager appointed by Governor Rick Snyder.

The report submitted to the United Nations also stated that the water shut off is part of a larger scheme “to sweeten the pot for private investors” to take over Detroit’s water system. Of course, the capitalist argument always puts forward that privatization brings down costs and is more efficient than government. I’m not one for conspiracy theories normally, but this whole situation does smell a little fishy to me too.

Detroiters need federal intervention regarding this potential water crisis. The amount of arrears should also be significantly higher than $150 before households with infants and elderly have their water cut off, especially as we approach our warmest months of the year.

Whether the United Nations issues a damning report or the federal government intervenes or not, Detroit continues to have the whole country shaking its head. It’s definitely not a good recipe to attract new businesses and migration back to our state. That’s for sure.

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