Detroit’s Lifeline Plan Offers Flat Rate Water Bills as Residents Struggle to Pay Bills

Close up of senior man in sportswear filling a glass of filtered water right from the tap after exercising at home. Staying hydrated while taking a break from daily training stock photo
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The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) has announced that it will be implementing a set of fixed water service rates to give Detroit residents affordable water based on income.

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“For nearly 10 years, we have debated with water advocates whether Detroit could implement a true, income-based water affordability plan,” said Gary Brown, director of the DWSD. “There were many differences of opinion on the subject, and in most cases, we agreed on the need but not the path.”

According to Fox 2 Detroit, the Lifeline Plan is Detroit’s first water affordability plan and will help approximately 100,000 households on state food assistance afford water at $18 per month. The plan is aimed at households of three persons to start and enrollment starts July 1.

Those not enrolled in assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Food Assistance Program (FAP) will pay $43 or $56 per month, depending upon whether they qualify and on their income level. Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) enrollees will automatically be given a fixed rate through the new plan.

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Here are Lifeline’s three fixed rates based on income:

  • If you receive SNAP/FAP benefits: You pay $18 a month for water, sewer, and drainage services.
  • If you are a low-income household (non-SNAP/FAP): You pay $43 a month for your total DWSD bill.
  • If you are a moderate-income household (non-SNAP/FAP): You pay $56 a month for your total DWSD bill.

Acknowledging the city’s past missteps concerning water service and current pandemic-influenced shut-off moratorium, the plan has the full support from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who, in turn, emphasized the importance of state and federal government backing to help sustain the plan for years to come.

“The new Lifeline Plan is a major step toward that goal, and those enrolled will continue to participate in a moratorium,” said Duggan in a press release. “We are calling on all elected officials and community leaders to join us to ensure this new program is funded long-term by the state and federal dollars.”

According to ClickOnDetroit, the average home in Detroit uses between 2,300 and 3,000 gallons of water a month. The Lifeline Plan will cover up to 4,500 gallons a month. Households that exceed the monthly limit will be charged a fee.

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Activist groups like Moratorium Now and the People’s Water Board Coalition are appreciative of the Lifeline Plan but argue that it needs to be expanded to assist all households in paying their bill, whether they have three inhabitants or a dozen.

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DWSD’s water network of more than 2,700 miles of transmission and distribution mains — and nearly 3,000 miles of sewer collection piping — serves more than 200,000 Detroit residential and commercial accounts representing a city population of nearly 680,000, per the city’s website.

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About the Author

David Nadelle is a freelance editor and writer based in Ottawa, Canada. After working in the energy industry for 18 years, he decided to change careers in 2016 and concentrate full-time on all aspects of writing. He recently completed a technical communication diploma and holds previous university degrees in journalism, sociology and criminology. David has covered a wide variety of financial and lifestyle topics for numerous publications and has experience copywriting for the retail industry.
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