A Geographic Assessment of Water and Sewer Service Affordability in the Detroit Metropolitan Area

Authors: Elizabeth Mack*, Michigan State University, Sarah Wrase, Michigan State University
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Urban Geography, Human Rights
Keywords: water affordability, poverty, race, water shutoffs
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Balcony A, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Across the United States, interest in the drivers of rising water and sewer costs is rising. Several cities around the country including Philadelphia and Baltimore have been recognized as hubs for this issue and Philadelphia has implemented income-based billing in response to rising affordability challenges for customers. One of the first cities to appear in the news however was Detroit, Michigan where thousands of customers had their water shut off for non-payment of services. We know water rates vary, sometimes dramatically, from utility to utility. However, an examination of the spatial variation in rates in Detroit, in accordance with the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of potential customers has not yet been conducted. Research of this kind is important to understand distributional questions associated with current billing practices of water and wastewater entities that may have unintended or unforeseen consequences for low-income and/or minority households. To assess distributional questions associated with current water and wastewater billing practices, this study will conduct a spatial assessment of water rates using historical data for both water and wastewater costs obtained from utilities. Policy implications of findings will be discussed.

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