“Detroit has one of the largest and highest quality water systems in the country. It has been owned and operated by the city, selling water to residents and suburbs at cost, for longer than any of us have been alive.

Recently, when Detroit was put under Emergency Management by the state government, the water department instituted a new policy. They would be shutting off water to any resident more than a month late in payment or over $150.

This was shocking. In most of the country, it’s considered a “public good” for everyone to have water. They use this water to bathe, cook, clean, and raise healthy children. Because of this belief, water is not shut off on homes even when it isn’t paid for right away. Many cities take responsibility for creating affordable payment plans for their low-income residents.

This may seem like “giving water away for free,” but in fact, the water department collects more money this way. People pay their water bills when they are able to. By making water more affordable, we collect more money from more people, which we can use to service the water infrastructure. And it has the added benefit of healthier families, communities, and cities.

The people of Detroit rallied around this message. They worked with international human rights groups to protest the shutoffs and pressure the city to turn the water back on. The United Nations visited Detroit and declared it a human rights crisis. …

For once in the history of Detroit, a public good is being stolen from both inner city residents and suburban ones. We believe that it’s important for everyone to have water, and we’re using our collective power to join with Detroiters and say enough is enough.

We demand that the city stop shutting off water now. We demand that those who have had their water shut off get it turned back on now. We demand that water be held as a public trust, not sold off to the highest bidder. We demand that the department commit to charging people based on their ability to pay, not to make a profit. Now.”

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