Water insecurity, broadly understood to be a lack of access to safe, reliable, and affordable drinking water and wastewater services, is a pressing, but frequently hidden issue in Southeast Michigan. From rising water bills that force families to prioritize water over food and medicine, to water shutoffs that completely disrupt service to people’s homes, many Detroit-area residents lack support or assistance to maintain uninterrupted access and affordable bills. This research employs quantitative and qualitative methods to explore the impacts of water insecurity on households in Southeast Michigan. We find that low-income residents in Detroit and the Detroit Metro area pay water bills that exceed an affordable rate, as defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Many households must adopt coping behaviors to mitigate the financial burden of expensive bills, potentially jeopardizing personal health and well-being. While existing assistance programs provide some support in the short-term, support is not adequate to address all facets of water security. From these insights, water security is defined as reliable access to water without fear of disconnection, regular bills that households can afford without making trade-offs, assistance in times of economic shock or prolonged distress, and increased public participation and administrative transparency at the system level.
CSS Publication Number:
Kay, Cria, Kely Markley, Dahlia Rockowitz, Malavika Sahai, and Christopher Askew-Merwin (2018) “Roadmap to Water Security.” Master’s Project, University of Michigan: Ann Arbor: 1-42.