LANSING — A coalition of Democratic state representatives introduced legislation this week in recognition of World Water Day. The annual observance dates back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, and in 2003 the UN General Assembly designated March 22 as the first World Water Day, held annually since. The legislation package deals with a broad scope of water quality issues around the state.

“Clean and affordable water is essential for every healthy community, and there is more we can do to ensure our residents have access to the clean water they depend on,” said state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn). “My colleagues and I are committed to protecting the health of our residents by proposing solutions to problems related to water quality, affordability and accessibility. I look forward to continuing this very important conversation on a topic that impacts us all.”

“The right to clean drinking water is a basic human right,” said state Rep. LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit). “Senior citizens, small children and their families should not be subject to unjust water shut offs due to exorbitant increases in water rates. That is why I am proud to stand with my colleagues to introduce a package of bills aimed at providing those in need with much-needed relief from questionable high water bills.”

The seven bill package would:

  • Decriminalize the act of reconnecting water services following a billing-related shut-off from a five year felony to a civil infraction for a first or second offense and a misdemeanor for the third offense. HB 4427 (Garrett) and 4428 (Garza)
  • Amend the social welfare act to create a residential water affordability program within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to ensure bills are based on household income. HB 4429 (Cherry)
  • Increase transparency by requiring water providers submit an annual report to DHHS regarding water rates and how they were determined, along with information about shut offs during the previous year. HB 4430 (Hammoud)
  • Allow some customers who have not received a water bill by ten days after the end of the billing period to no longer be held responsible for paying that bill if they contacted the department in writing twice and did not receive a response within 30 days HB 4431 (Neeley)
  • Institute water shut-off protections for seniors, families with minor children and those who are disabled, and provide for clearer notices and a process to avoid shut-offs when possible, in addition to creating a low-income water assistance fund. HB 4432 (Garrett)
  • Grant the Michigan Public Service Commission the power and jurisdiction to regulate rates, fares, fees and charges of any water or sewer authority in the state. HB 4433 (Hope)

“Water is a human necessity and should always be accessible to every Michigan resident,” said state Rep. Alex Garza (D-Taylor). “The time has come for us to stop the practice of criminalizing those who are down on their luck. Instead of punitive policies that make it harder for our most vulnerable residents to succeed, we need to focus on novated ways to get them back on their feet.”

“Members of my community have shared the burden that they face in paying their water bills, which are the highest in the nation, despite their careful and considerate usage” said state Rep. John Cherry (D-Flint). “My bill would create a residential water affordability program to ensure that water bills are based on household income. Access to clean water is a human right, and this package is one step toward safe, affordable water for all.”

“I am proud to support this bill package along with my colleagues,” said state Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt). “By giving the Michigan Public Service Commission oversight and jurisdiction of regulating the rates, fees and charges of all water and sewer authorities in the state, we are ensuring that every citizen has safe and affordable access to clean water.”