New research shows water bills are unaffordable across metro Detroit

Originally published: 
October, 2018

Low-income households across metro Detroit can't afford their water bills, and new research by SEAS shows there’s now an affordability gap: people are paying more for water than they can actually afford.

Water poverty within the city of Detroit has been a known issue for several years now, but the students’ survey of houses across Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties aimed to investigate whether the water affordability gap exists outside of the city limits too. Dahlia Rockowitz, one of the student researchers who worked on the project, said the results were conclusive.

Dalia and the four other members of her master’s project team (Chris Askew-Merwin, Cria Kay, Malavika Sahai, and Kely Markley), advised by Dr. Tony Reames, employed quantitative and qualitative research methods to explore the impacts of water insecurity and the lack of a water “safety net.” The team surveyed nearly 400 metro Detroit residents to gain a broad and diverse understanding of water insecurity. They also conducted expert interviews with practitioners and advocates in the areas of politics and policy, law, physical and mental health, social services, finance, utility, and academia.

Quantitative and qualitative research methods were used to explore the impacts of water insecurity and the lack of a water safety net. The research team surveyed nearly 400 metro Detroit residents and conducted expert interviews with practitioners and advocates in the areas of politics and policy, law, physical and mental health, social services, finance, utilities, and academia.

The research showed that unaffordable water bills lead residents to make behavior changes that negatively impact nearly every other aspect of their lives. In light of these findings, the project team developed a framework for realizing water security and affordability for low income residents in southeast Michigan, with applicability in other geographies and income brackets. Read the full story here.