The standard for affordable water is set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA attempts to stress equity and consideration for low-income individuals. In 1995, the EPA set the first water affordability rate at 2% which is considered a “large economic impact.” Unfortunately, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) among other non-governmental actors disagree with the EPA and have different ideas as to how to pay for and maintain this basic human need and natural resource.
Detroit’s water rate was increased by 8.7% in July 2014 effectively making an average monthly water bill at $70.76 (or $849.12 annually). In order for this $850 annual rate to fit within the EPA’s standard of “affordability” a household would need an annual income of around $40,000. Anyone aware of the situation in Detroit and Census data could tell you that the majority of households in Detroit do not have that level of income and that the median income in Detroit is $26,955. That goes without saying that 40% of Detroit residents live below the poverty line. For the Detroit average household of 3, less than $19,790 is living below the poverty line.
All of these numbers show that 303,389 households in Detroit have an income less than $39,900 making almost 80% of Detroit households vulnerable in regards to water affordability.