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Don't Deny Detroit Families the Human Right to Water

This petition had 904 supporters

Today in Detroit Michigan, tens of thousands of people are being denied the basic human right to water. Our city government and elected officials have deemed profit making from our water supply more important than human life.

We ask you to stand with us in Detroit and other communities across the United States to tell our politicians enough is enough. Water - an essential life source - is not for sale.

Dear President Obama,  

Access to water is both a vital human need and human right. Yet, today thousands of families in Detroit, Michigan have no water in their homes. Massive water shutoffs are being executed by the Homrich Corporation, a private contractor hired by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) to manage this vital need.

- In December 2014, DWSD reported that they had shut off water to 33,000 homes. These shutoffs — in a city where 38% of residents live at or below the federal poverty line — ignore the financial realities of struggling families and deny Detroit residents their human right to water.

- In response to these unjust shutoffs, DWSD offers unsustainable payment plans with some families required to pay as much as 30% of their monthly household income to restore their water service and maintain access to clean water for their families.

- The crisis has only worsened.  In March 2015, DWSD announced in public meetings that they would pursue another 36,000 shutoffs.

In Michigan, a home without running water is deemed unlivable.  Therefore, families facing water shutoffs are at risk of having their minor children and/or aging relatives removed by protective agencies.  Hence we are inundated with families at risk of not just being denied water but losing their minor children and beloved elders simply because they cannot afford the rising water costs.  The water crisis facing Detroit residents has become so dire that United Nations human rights experts recently visited the city. 

Reflecting upon the human rights violations facing Detroit residents, Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation, said:  

“It is contrary to human rights to disconnect water from people who simply do not have the means to pay their bills.  I heard testimonies from … residents of Detroit who were forced to make impossible choices – to pay the water bill or to pay their rent.”

Mr. President, we need your immediate assistance to stop these mass water shutoffs that have targeted low-income families and have affected the homes of children, the disabled, and our honorable veterans.   

“As we approach the 2015 close of the UN International Decade for Action "Water for Life," and Inter American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) hearing on the right to water and sanitation in the U.S. we ask you to help residents of this great American city in the following ways:”

1. Ensure enforcement of a Water Affordability Program and not a Water Assistance program that is able to ensure immediate and long term access to water and sanitation.  

2. Review and strengthen programs that stop foreclosures due to outstanding water bills and address the growing public health concerns the shutoffs have created.

3. Convene official congressional hearings in Detroit on the water crisis that includes federal, state and local officials, focused  on viable solutions.  

Mr. President, no mother or father should have to choose between paying a water bill and meeting their family’s other basic needs. The crisis is growing, and Detroit’s families need your help. Please take immediate steps to protect our human right to water. 

For more information visit: You can also contact Rob Robinson at 212-253-1710 x 319 or email:


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