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Local News

Detroit’s New Water Affordability Plan May Lack Transparency

Credit: iStock

Armand Jackson

Detroit officials announced back in late June a new water affordability plan that has been approved by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Board to assist residents with the high cost of water utilities. The program is called the DWSD Lifeline Plan and it has three rate tiers that will cost low-income families, $18, $43 or $56 dollars a month. These rates are for water usage under 4,500 gallons per month since the average Detroit household of three people uses between 2,300 and 3,000 gallons of water per month. However, if a household uses more water than 4,500 gallons then the bill will include additional water charges. For the three tiers, if a resident receives food assistance programs such as SNAP/FAP benefits, they pay $18 a month for water, sewer, and drainage services (DWSD); low-income households pay $43 a month for their total DWSD bill; and moderate-income household pay $56 a month for their total DWSD bill. 

The total bill will be 1.8 percent of the average monthly household income for each tier. Those eligible for the plan include the 2,500 households who are currently enrolled in the Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP) and have been auto-enrolled, starting on June 28th, in the new plan when it launches later this year. The over 19,000 households who were previously in WRAP can immediately qualify and will be contacted by Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, which includes low-income-eligible households and households receiving SNAP/FAP benefits. 

The local water advocate community coalition We The People of Detroit, joined by Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, called for more transparency from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Board as a written documentation of the plan has not been released to the public yet. They wish for the plan to be funded for the long-term, open to all residents whose income is less than double the federal poverty level, and for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Board to be open to public comment for at least 30 to 45 days as well as implement some changes that water advocates have been asking for. 

A main issue water advocates have is water shutoffs. We The People of Detroit and Congresswoman Tlaib have long advocated against water shut offs that have affected the overall health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of residents in Detroit. In fact, Emily Kutil, a member of the coalition stated that Detroit has shut off water to about 170,000 residents in the past decade, and some families have had their water shut off repeatedly. 

Detroit Water and Sewer Department’s Director Gary Brown in an emailed response statement said that “DWSD has provided all the documents, including the rate and affordability studies, used to develop the Lifeline Plan to the water advocates, DWSD is currently drafting the working policy for the plan that will be shared with community leaders and water advocates, as well as posted on the website.” 

He states in the email that any residents who go over the 4,500 gallon limit will be reviewed on a case by case basis and no Detroit household who is enrolled in the Detroit Lifeline Plan or the DWSD 10/30/50 Plan will face water shutoffs. The department will also have a 60 day engagement period with 10 community events including one in each council district. There are other water assistance programs like the DWSD 10/30/50 Payment Plan that residents can look into as well.