COVID-19 Special Coverage
UN rights experts urge Detroit to make access to water affordable to poorest citizens
UN rights experts urge Detroit to make access to water affordable to poorest citizens

[JURIST] A group of UN human rights experts on Monday implored the city of Detroit to make access to water [report] and adequate housing more affordable, classifying these as basic human rights. The recommendations were made after a two-day visit to the city of Detroit, where UN experts noticed the negative effect of the steep price of water on the city’s poorest citizens. Due to the cost of leakages and aging infrastructures, the cost of water has increased exponentially, and those who are unable to pay have been denied access. The special rapporteurs said that access to water is a human right as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text, PDF], as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text], both of which are recognized by the US. Furthermore, lack of access to water “threatens the rights to adequate housing, life, health, adequate food, integrity of the family” as well as posing a risk to public health. The experts recommended that the city of Detroit restore water to those unable to pay and implement an affordability threshold as well as provide several other recommendations as to methods of improving access to water.

Detroit also faced public condemnation [JURIST report] from the UN in June for its policy of disconnecting water services for failure to pay. This policy, meant to alleviate a water and sewer system that is already indebted, can be linked to the bankruptcy crisis that has plagued the city of Detroit since filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy [JURIST backgrounder] last July. The city has recently continued to take steps to relieve its debt by approving [JURIST report] a deal to lease the water and sewage department to a regional authority.