Friday, November 21, 2014

Press Statement on Need for Citizen’s Community Representative to Great Lakes Regional Water Authority (GLWA) from Detroit

Detroit, MI -- Oversight of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) will be transferred in the next few months to a regional authority, the Great Lakes Regional Water Authority (GLRWA). It will consist of representatives from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties, the State of Michigan, and the City of Detroit.

The Detroit People’s Water Board Coalition disagrees with the decision to transfer oversight of the DWSD to the GLRWA for several reasons, including: (1) the detrimental effect it will have on Detroit residents who continue to bear the burden of infrastructure costs without full system control; (2) the failure by local authorities to implement the 2005 Water Affordability Plan which provides for low income affordable payment plans and conservation efforts; (3) the circumvention of democratic proceedings in the development of the GLRWA; (4)  the failure of all parties to protect water as a human right and as a public trust. (See the Statement on the proposed Great Lakes Water Authority) (5) the continued threat of privatization of Great Lakes water, which should be held in common; and (6) the implicit entitlement  by the GLRWA to assume DWSD ownership rights after the Detroit-paid water system was expanded at the request of suburban communities to serve their needs.

Notwithstanding our opposition to the formation of a regional water authority and the 40-year lease of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, GLRWA appointments have already been made from Oakland and Macomb counties. To the extent that the DWSD and City of Detroit decide to go forward without the vote and consent of the people of Detroit, it is imperative that community-based representation on and appointments to the GLRWA take place for Detroit and Wayne County.

The Mayor of Detroit has not yet appointed two representatives from Detroit, nor have the Governor and the Wayne County Executive. Given the water shutoff and affordability crises, the Detroit People’s Water Board Coalition proposes that citizen input and protection be included in the process. In order to accomplish this, we believe that: (1) Detroit City Council needs to create an ordinance that establishes a GLRWA Detroit Citizens Advisory Board whose membership is selected from community-based water experts. The People’s Water Board has candidates to submit. (2) One of the two Detroit appointees by the Mayor to the GLRWA should be from the GLRWA Detroit Citizens Advisory Board.  The purpose of the Advisory Board is to protect the rights of Detroit citizens related to water affordability, and to review complaints/appeals from Detroit customers of the GLRWA.

Since 2013 over 50,000 residential households have had their water shut off. At this time, as many as 36,324 people in the city of Detroit continue to live without running water in their homes (per research by Food & Water Watch). The Mayor’s Ten Point Plan does not adequately provide for the human right to water for all Detroit residents, especially the most vulnerable, including low-income households with babies and children, seniors and persons with disabilities. Human life is threatened and illness results when there is no water in a home.

United Nations Special Rapporteurs who visited Detroit in October 2014 stated that governments bear the responsibility to ensure that water is provided for its most vulnerable citizens. “The City of Detroit should restore water connections to residents unable to pay and to vulnerable groups of people including those with disabilities, the chronically ill, and households with small children,” stressed Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water. Ms. Leilani Farha, U.N. Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, added “Every effort should be made by all levels of government to ensure that the most vulnerable are not evicted from or lose their housing as a result of water shut-offs or water bill arrears. Where an individual or family is rendered homeless due to water shut-offs, the city of Detroit must have in place emergency services to ensure that alternate accommodation with running water is available.”

The Special Rapporteurs recalled that the United States is bound by international human rights law, including the right to life as well as the right to non-discrimination concerning housing, water and sanitation and the highest attainable standard of health. “These obligations apply to all levels of Government – federal, state and municipal,” Ms. de Albuquerque and Ms. Farha underscored. (See U.N. press statement on Detroit.)

We believe this cruel disregard for the human rights and very survival of thousands of Detroiters is a direct result of the lack of democracy in the governance of the city and its water system. We demand that water service be restored to all Detroiters immediately and that democracy policies be added to the GLRWA by following the recommendations we outlined above.

Members of the Detroit People’s Water Board Coalition

AFSCME Local 207
Baxter's Beat Back the Bullies Brigade
Conscious Community Cooperative
Detroit Black Community Food Security Network
Detroit Eviction Defense
Detroit Greens
Building Movement Peoples Platform
Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management
East Michigan Environmental Action Council
Food and Water Watch
Great Lakes Bioneers - Detroit
Highland Park Human Rights Coalition
Matrix Theater Company
Michigan Coalition for Human Rights
Michigan Welfare Rights Organization
Moratorium NOW
Rosa Parks Institute
Sierra Club
Sisters of Mercy
Small Ville Sustainable Community Farm
The Raiz Up
Voices for Earth Justice
We the People of Detroit

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Peoples Recommendations submitted to the UN

1. We call on the State of Michigan and the U.S. government to respect the human right to water and sanitation.


2. We call on the city to restore services to households that have been cut off immediately.


 3. We call on the city to abandon its plan for further cut-offs.


4. We call on the federal and state governments to work with the city to ensure a sustainable public financing plan and rate structure that would prevent a transfer of the utility’s financial burden onto residents who are currently paying exorbitant rates for their water services.


5. We call for fair water rates for the residents of Detroit.


6. We call on the City of Detroit to implement the original water affordability program immediately.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Coalition Delivers over 158,000 Signatures to Gov. Snyder and Detroit City Council Calling for an End to the Water Shut-offs in Detroit

Detroit, Mich. – Today the People’s Water Board Coalition delivered more than 158,000 petition signatures to Governor Snyder and the Detroit City Council in front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in Detroit. The petitions call for an immediate and permanent stop to the water shut-offs in Detroit, restoration of household water service where it has been shut off, and implementation of the Water Affordability Plan passed by Detroit's City Council in 2005.

"Water is essential to all life," said Dorthea Thomas of Environmental Action. "We're here to deliver these signatures not only on behalf of Detroit's people, but our entire ecosystem. Without a just, equitable and public water system, every plant, animal and person is at risk."

People around the globe have signed the petitions being delivered today. “This issue has reached people all over the world,” said Lynna Kaucheck of Food & Water Watch and the People’s Water Board. “All eyes are on us. How the Governor’s office handles this situation will show whether or not he thinks people and their basic human rights are more important than profit.”

Today’s petition delivery is the next step in an ongoing series of events spearheaded by the People’s Water Board to stop the water shut-offs in Detroit and to implement the Water Affordability Plan. In June, the group and allies reached out to the United Nations, which then filed a complaint against the U.S. Government and the State of Michigan for violating the human right to water and sanitation. In August, the group partnered with 54 other organizations to call on the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to declare a public health emergency in Detroit because of the lack of water and sanitation. Most recently, an injunction was filed in the ongoing bankruptcy trial requesting a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on water shut-offs in Detroit. The request was sent to mediation and a decision is expected tomorrow.

“It is reprehensible that children and families in Detroit are being put at risk of disease because they cannot afford their water bills,” said Sister Mary Ellen Howard, Registered Nurse from Cabrini Clinic. “To maintain public health, water must not only be clean; it must be available and affordable. Our lives depend on it.”

The City of Detroit is in crisis. When 45 percent of the city struggles to pay their water bills, it becomes clear that this is not just a problem with delinquent payment. It is indicative of broader, systemic issues resulting from decades of policies that put profits before people.

“By denying drinking water and sanitation to thousands of Detroiters, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is violating one of their basic human rights,” said Lila Cabbil of Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute and People’s Water Board. “Without water, how are people expected to bathe, flush a toilet or prepare healthy food for their families? We are calling on our elected officials today to put an end to this injustice and turn the water back on.”

Copies of the petitions are also being delivered to the judges overseeing the bankruptcy trial and mediation.

The petition was sponsored by, Daily Kos, Demand Progress /, Democracy for America, Environmental Action, Food & Water Watch, the People’s Water Board, RH Reality Check and Working Families Organization.

The People’s Water Board advocates for access, protection, and conservation of water, and promotes awareness of the interconnectedness of all people and resources. 

The People’s Water Board includes: AFSCME Local 207, Baxter’s Beat Back the Bullies Brigade, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Detroit Green Party, Detroit People’s Platform, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Food & Water Watch, FLOW, Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit, Matrix Theater, Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute, Sierra Club, Sisters of Mercy, Voices for Earth Justice and We the People of Detroit.