Detroit borders the Great Lakes system, containing 21 percent of the world’s surface freshwater. The lakes are the source of the city’s water supply, but a growing number of residents can’t turn on the tap.
Longtime subscriber, first-time writer. I’ve been tearing up periodically since this op-ed was published in The New York Times on the Fourth of July. It is a strange feeling: the story itself is a sad and difficult and maddening one. And yet, the telling of it in this space is a dream come true for me.
One thing I appreciated: the rigor of fact-checking an opinion piece. This took a lot of hustle, because there’s an enormous amount of misinformation out there. It is actually pretty depressing how slippery many activists and people writing for media (“reporters”) are with the specifics of this story. For example, the statistic that the city is shutting off water for 3000 people a week keeps getting thrown around. But it’s just not true. It’s a mangled fact: actually, the water department prepared in June logistically to do 1500-3000 shutoffs per week, but that is not the number of shutoffs that actually happened. It’s a distinction that is important, but I think has been willfully blurred in some cases to emphasize the urgency of the situation. Of course, the situation is urgent. But it drives me nuts when people trust rhetoric and hyperbole, rather than facts, to make their case. There seems to be something darker at hand than plain old laziness and sloppiness and a misunderstanding of what a credible source is. It seems to demonstrate a lack of faith in the real world to be enough, as it is.
In a second article, one for Next City, I had more room to expand on the lived experience of the water story.
For (Nicole) Hill, friends have invited her over to shower or fill jugs. She uses a trashcan as a rain barrel. She recycles dishwater to use again as mop water, or to pour into the toilet to make it flush. When she uses the bathroom without water, she says, “I literally try to do it military style in my small trash can: Bind it up and throw it out.”
Her kids, spread out in different homes around the city, are worried about their mother. Her son, staying around the corner, checks in on her frequently. Her 14-year-old daughter filled a backpack with two liters of water and rode them over on her bike. “They feel like they have to protect me,” Hill said