NEW White Paper: Detroit Water Shutoffs and the COVID-19 Pandemic

The RISE Lab is happy to release a White Paper detailing how institutional authorities in the State of Michigan and City of Detroit addressed water affordability and the mass water shutoffs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the first cases of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, were identified in the United States, community activists appealed to authorities to reverse this shutoff policy. Although the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urged people to wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds to prevent community spread of COVID-19 , activists pointed out that this was impossible for many Detroit residents who lacked running water in their homes. Their pleas were initially dismissed, however, and it was not until March 10, 2020, by when Detroit had emerged as a national epicenter of COVID-19, that Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued executive order EO2020-28 halting water shutoffs and restoring water to disconnected homes. In December 2020, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced that the City would cover outstanding payments through 2022 and permanently end shutoffs, but questions remain about whether these promises will be upheld, if they have not fundamentally changed their language and assumptions of the root problems related to water affordability.

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New publication: What is “water privilege”? And how do we perpetuate it in our everyday language, to dismiss the problems of people who lack water access?

When I began work on the Detroit Water Stories project, back in 2017, I was puzzled why more people living in the city and suburbs were not aware of or perturbed by the mass water shutoffs that had already impacted close to 100,000 households, since 2014. This was, after all, an issue that the United Nations had condemned in no uncertain terms as a major violation of human rights, after the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department started disconnecting water for residents who could not pay their bills — and in the richest country of the world, no less!

Continue reading “New publication: What is “water privilege”? And how do we perpetuate it in our everyday language, to dismiss the problems of people who lack water access?”