Last year, the people of Metro Detroit were told that regionalizing the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) would result in a more efficient system and a promise of an annual 4% cap on water rate increases. The Detroit News reports now this promise will likely be broken, and both city and suburbs will again face steeper rates this year: another in a series of hikes that has raised the cost of water over 119% in less than a decade.
To blame this broken promise on decreased water usage or delinquent customers misses the real problem: nearly half of the revenue collected by the water department today goes to pay off mounting old debts. The department now spends approximately $.46 of every dollar it receives paying debt service on questionable past loans, a figure that has increased nearly 55% in the last ten years. The department is in a massive $5 billion debt, or approximately $4,500 per metro Detroit family.
For any regionalization plan to succeed, Detroit must first shed its overbearing debt load. Today, we are launching an online petition calling on Detroit to start the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) with a fresh slate: cancel the existing debts of Detroit Water and Sewerage customers and start afresh with simple, affordable rates: all customer past-due balances are wiped clean.
We pledge to grow this campaign in the coming months until we bring relief to the tens of thousands of metro Detroit families living without water today and the millions more living precariously with unaffordable water rates.
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