The Feed

The Moyo blog features diverse voices and perspectives related to our topics.

The Water Crisis in Our Backyard

Posted August 6, 2015

Most of the time, when we talk about a water crisis, images of developing countries in the global south come to mind. Undoubtedly, many communities around the world – in South America, Africa, and India – do not have access clean, safe water. But the water crisis affects more than these regions. Right now, citizens of some of the United States’ biggest cities are facing water shut offs because they are unable to afford their water bills. Today on The Feed, Moyo team member Mia Coward gives her perspective on the water crisis in Detroit and Baltimore.

By Mia Coward 

As of this past May, there will be 28, 000 water shutoffs in Detroit. 800 notices per day will be hung on doors across the city to notify the residents and give resources for them to stop the shutoffs from happening, something that did not happen when the last round of shutoffs occurred in March. More than 40 percent of Detroiters live in poverty, the highest big-city rate in the nation, and many have to scrap together the money for something as basic as water.

This crisis is an unfamiliar struggle to most American households because water seems easily accessible. Unaffordable water is also present in Baltimore, with 25,000 notices since April and 75,000 threatened with possible shutoffs. According to the Common Dreams press, disconnecting service to thousands of homes also poses a very real public health threat. Without water service, people cannot flush their toilets or wash their hands. Lack of adequate sanitation can cause diseases to spread, making people sick. The elderly, children, and people with diabetes and other illnesses would be especially vulnerable. Extensive water shutoffs would be a public health crisis in the making.

The UN acknowledges that clean drinking water is essential to the realization of all human rights.  If this statement is true, then it means that Detroit and Baltimore along with other countries are violating the basic right we have to clean water.  In a recent article by the UN, one of the people interviewed said, “It is contrary to human rights to disconnect water from people who simply do not have the means to pay their bills.”  However, the Detroit government does not feel the same way. The mayor of Detroit, having just taken control of the water department's operations from former emergency manager Kevyn Orr, said that free water is not an option. However, if free water is not an option and the people of Detroit and Baltimore cannot afford their water bills, what will they do for water?  How can our society continue to thrive without the basic necessity of water? It seems unfair and hypocritical to promote a healthy wellbeing when a large number of citizens in cities like Detroit and Baltimore lack water. And these aren’t the only places in the U.S. that are experiencing the crisis of unaffordable water. It also seems unfair to take away the right to have affordable water when many of the vacant houses around these communities are flooded with water that should have been turned off.  In many articles, the government officials for these cities seem unconcerned with water as a human right and more focused on making sure they are in compliance with their own budget. 

Through protest and activism groups, we can see that these communities are not without hope.  There are people who are helping those in need and finding ways to keep water running in Detroit and Baltimore. These activists understand that the government is breaking and violating a human right to water, an essential need that must be affordable and sufficient. Groups that are making a difference are The Detroit Water Brigade and The Detroit Water Project. These two groups have gotten a record amount of people to donate and even help pay for water bills. They have brought in volunteers from all over the world that bring vans full of water in order to help those in need. Although the name of these organizations says Detroit, these organizations also help those residents of the Baltimore area that are in need of water.

Each organization has over 10, 000 people who help and donate money as well as physical water jugs for families.  While Detroit and Baltimore are cities I’ve highlighted, it seems that the United States is in worst water crisis this country has ever seen.  There is a drought of water happening in other places around the western part of the country.  While we are always quick to shine a light on the other countries that are struggling with the water supply we should also look closer at the water crisis here in our own country and use those same tactics that we do to help those in our communities who are struggling to afford and receive an adequate water supply. It is time that we find ways to have an effect on the governmental officials so that they realize that water is essential to the growth and development of our society.

1 Comment

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9:13 PM on 9/26/2015
Mia, thanks so much for sharing this info about water issues in our country - We are each going to have to take a hard look at how we contribute to this crisis and how we can change and make a difference.