“This is unprecedented,” said Maude Barlow, founder of the Blue Planet Project, a group that advocates water as a human right.
“I visited the city and worked with the Detroit People’s Water Board several weeks ago and came away terribly upset,” she told IPS.
“Water bills are regressive, so low-income households pay a disproportionate amount of their income for water service.” — Mary Grant, researcher at Food & Water Watch
She pointed out that hundreds of thousands of people, mostly African Americans, are having their water ruthlessly turned off.
Families with children, the elderly and the sick, cannot bathe, flush their toilets or cook in their own homes, she added.
“This is the worst violation of the human right to water I have ever seen outside of the worst slums in the poorest countries in failed states of the global South,” said Barlow, a one-time senior advisor on water to a former President of the U.N. General Assembly.
Last March, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) announced plans to shut off water service for 1,500 to 3,000 customers every week if their water bills were not paid. And on Tuesday, the City Council approved an 8.7-percent water rate increase.
According to a DWSD document, more than 80,000 residential households – in a city of 680,000 people – are in arrears, with thousands of families without water, and thousands more expected to lose access at any moment.