Friday, July 18, 2014


In response to the unraveling situation in Detroit, the United Nations issued a statement out of Geneva last month that said, “Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.”
Warring factions in Ukraine are using basic necessities of life, such as water, as weapons against the civilian population. Horrible! A clear violation of basic human rights. The U.N. reports that half of Gaza population, "without water supply". Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon also expressed concern over reports that water supplies in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo were deliberately cut off by armed groups for eight days, depriving at least 2.5 million people of access to safe water for drinking and sanitation.

It raises the question, how can anyone stoop so low as to deny people, including small children, the aged and infirm, access to water? Unthinkable here in the U.S. Right?
The average monthly water bill for a family of four in Detroit is nearly double the national average. Chris Hayes reported on MSNBC that, though the E.P.A. recommends that families spend no more than 2.5 percent of their pretax income on water and sewage, some residents of Detroit pay 20 percent of their pretax income for these services. Those who can’t pay face a shutoff—and a stigmatizing blue slash of paint in front of their houses, signifying that they are, in fact, waterless. -- The Nation
Congressman John Conyers says that the causes of this crisis include the economic problems with the country, deindustrialization, higher unemployment rates, population decline, and the number of families who cannot afford water.

At the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit this week, N. Carolina civil rights leader, Rev. Wm. Barber called for a lifting of the water blockade affecting hundreds of thousands of the city's poor and unemployed.

Retweeted by The Nation's John Nichols:
ABC News7 reports that poor and unemployed residents can receive assistance from the city if they can prove to a Water Dept. bureaucrat that they are truly deserving of aid. Even this offer of assistance came only after the city's bankruptcy judge, Steven Rhodes, ordered Deputy Director Darryl Latimer to  "do something."

According to Latimer:
"When you're getting to the range of 40-50% of your customers in delinquent status, that becomes alarming so you have to react to that." 
But The Atlantic reports:
Residents targeted by the shut-off campaign have been reluctant to speak up. Some have stayed quiet because they’ve resorted to illegally hiring plumbers, and others—who are without water and relying on neighbors and friends for drinking water and showers—are afraid child-protective services may intervene, as a lack of running water is grounds for social services to immediately take children out of parents’ care.
Even those without children remain reticent. Some feel tarred by a general notion of shame and culpability for not being able to meet such a bare necessity as water. Last week, a headline in one of the local newspapers, The Detroit News, described delinquent customers as “water scofflaws.” 
Rev. Charles E. Williams II, in an interview on MSNBC's All in With Chris Hayes says:
 We celebrate this year, 50 years since the signing of a Civil Rights bill that gave Blacks access to public accommodations that were segregated by race. Now, 50 years later we are marching to maintain public services that are human rights, but being segregated by class. Detroit's water crisis should remind us that this is class warfare, that's waged on those who are at the bottom. In Detroit we will march and we will fight not just for those who are losing water daily, but for those who are being shut out and driven into poverty across the nation.
Rev. Williams II and National Action Network Michigan will lead a National demonstration today to call for a moratorium on water shut offs in Detroit. National Nurses United, which claims that the shut-offs will trigger a large-scale public health disaster, is calling on people to turn out for today's march.

You can join the movement by going to or

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