As of yesterday, Monday, July 21, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department has suspended shutting off water to delinquent customers. The suspension will last for 15 days while the city regroups its effort to get people to pay their bills.
The city has been turning off water service to households by the thousands since earlier this year with almost 7,600 customers losing water in April and May alone. The city began cracking down on delinquent payers as part of a program to remedy lax enforcement in prior years.
However, the city's plan backfired after news of the widespread shut-offs reached international attention and prompted a letter to the United Nations. Many of those being targeted by the shut-offs are lower income and simply have no way to pay for their water. Advocacy groups, including the UN, have called the shut-offs a gross human rights violation.
During the 15-suspension, the city plans to stage a media blitz to spread the word about payment and financial assistance for those who have a documented inability to pay their bills, although it is unclear at the moment what will happen to delinquent customers after the amnesty period is over.
In addition to attracting international attention, the water shut-offs have sparked protests as recently as last Friday when more than 1,000 people gathered to demonstrate against the city's aggressive policies. The protest coincided with Netroots Nation, an annual progressive political convention. Nine people were arrested during the protest.
Top image of Friday's protest via huffingtonpost.com.