News

Michigan Legislature Passes Bill to Keep Water on Through March 2021

Posted on December 18, 2020 by

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 18, 2020

Media Contact: Jill Ryan, Executive Director, Freshwater Future, jill@freshwaterfuture.org , (231)348-8200 ext. 2

(Communities across Michigan)– The Michigan Legislature passed legislation yesterday that prohibits water utilities from shutting off water to residents due to non-payment. The legislation, spearheaded by Senator Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), also requires the restoration of water services to families currently without running tap water. After months without protections due to a court decision removing Michigan’s Governor’s power to require water reconnections during COVID-19, this will at least temporarily fill the gap for those without running water.

“We applaud Senator Stephanie Chang’s leadership in championing legislation to eliminate the inhumane practice of water shutoffs affecting Michigan residents. Water activists have been working tirelessly for more than a decade to bring attention to the rising unaffordability of water resources in our communities and the public health crisis disproportionately affecting underrepresented communities that water shutoff practices by municipalities across Michigan create.” said Monica Lewis Patrick, President & CEO, We the People of Detroit. “We acknowledge Senator Chang’s commitment to ensuring all Michiganders have access to water and we recognize and honor the Water Warriors who have been working hard to raise awareness for years.”

Prior to COVID-19, more than 15 million Americans, or 1 out of every 20 households, had their water shut off due to being unable to pay their water bill, and it is expected that more than a third of the nation will be unable to pay their water bill by the end of 2022.  These numbers will be exacerbated due to COVID-19, leaving potentially hundreds of thousands of Michiganders making hard decisions between putting food on the table and paying their water bill if the state does not take steps to work with utilities to make water affordable for everyone. 

Escalating water rates are occurring in rural, suburban and urban areas alike. In rural Mancelona, a town of about 1,300 people, an average combined water and sewer rate is nearly double the United Nation’s recommended affordable amount for the median household income. “Access to clean, affordable water is a fundamental right and necessity for people all across Michigan,” said Anthony Spaniola of Need Our Water (NOW) in Oscoda.  “Studies have shown that PFAS-impacted communities like ours are at a higher risk of serious Covid impacts.  This legislation comes at a critical time, and we applaud Senator Chang and our Water Warrior allies for their efforts on behalf of the people of our state.”

“This is the first step in protecting public health and ensuring all families across the state have access to running water to wash their hands and for drinking,” said Jill Ryan, Executive Director of Freshwater Future. “Now we must look forward and create a way to ensure the water stays on for everyone in the Great Lakes state and beyond.”

Through a community consensus process conducted by the Water Unity Table, ten principles have been developed outlining what residents want to see in policies to make water affordable for everyone. Based on these principles, a  Water Affordability Pledge has been developed that organizations and individuals can endorse to show support for the need for affordable water.  

The All About Water collaborative, including the Water Unity Table, We the People of Detroit, Freshwater Future, the Benton Harbor Community Water Council, and others are lifting up this pledge and are committed to securing affordable water for every resident of Michigan and the country. Reverend Edward Pinkney, President of the Benton Harbor Water Council said “he is extremely happy to hear that protections have been extended for access to water for another 90 days, but we need to take the next step and ensure permanent water connections for residents.”

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We the People of Detroit is dedicated to community coalition building and to the provision of resources that inform, train and mobilize the citizens of Detroit and beyond to improve their quality of life. Learn more at https://www.wethepeopleofdetroit.com/

Freshwater Future builds a strong and effective environmental community working to protect and restore the waters of the Great Lakes by involving residents in civic decision-making. Learn more at https://freshwaterfuture.org/

Need Our Water (NOW) is a community action group organized to give Oscoda-AuSable and surrounding communities a voice.  Its mission is to be a reliable resource and catalyst for education and communication while advocating for long-term health and environmental welfare plans on behalf of those affected by the water contamination from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, Michigan. Learn more on Now’s facebook page.

The Benton Harbor Community Water Council, a grassroots, community-based organization, aims to inform, educate, and empower Benton Harbor residents about land, water, education, and the democratic process. Learn more at http://bhcwc.org/.

All About Water is a collaboration of community groups that works to further water policies by improving access, quality and affordability of water.  Since 2017, the All About Water group has focused on improving water infrastructure and affordability, through regular calls and convenings to strategize, collaborate and create positive action on water issues.

@FreshwaterFutur

© 2021 Freshwater Future. All Rights Reserved.

Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.