waterThere is an ongoing public health threat estimated to affect 120,000 homes in Detroit by the end of the summer. No, it’s not access to health care or even the spread of disease. It’s a lack of running water in homes. Although Detroit is surrounded by water, and the city intakes its water supply from the Detroit River and Lake Huron, many of our most vulnerable residents of the city are facing water cut-offs. Exceptional

Reasons vary for residents who have a hard time paying their utility bills. However, the impact is consistent. For instance, without running water in the home, residents have no access to tap drinking water or functioning toilets. Also, a lack of running water makes it difficult to cook nutritional whole foods. Without water, it’s nearly impossible to adequately address basic health and hygiene. This is amplified when attending to the increased needs of infants and the seniors. For anyone with health and medical complications, running water is essential to appropriate care. On the other hand, no running water within a home means exposing residents to water sources that may not be clean or safe. Alarmingly, most of the residents facing water cut-offs are African American with two-thirds of these residences involving children.

Access to running water might typically be seen as an issue facing communities in third world counties, however, this is happening right here in Detroit. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is one of the oldest municipal water systems in the country. With roots dating back to 1836, the current system pumps drinking water to 40 percent of Michigan’s residents across Detroit and 126 suburban communities stretching from Downriver to Flint. However, with economic struggles and rising water utility rates, residents throughout the city are challenged to meet their monthly utility bills – collectively owing about $118 million.

So, what can we do as a community? On Friday, June 27, the Water Access Volunteer Effort (WAVE) Fund will host its annual WAVE on the Water Gala at the Detroit Wayne County Port Authority. Proceeds from the event will benefit the WAVE Fund that provides assistance to low-income families during a crisis by ensuring uninterrupted access to safe drinking water and sanitation services.

The event will be hosted by Emmy Award Winning Journalist Carol Cain. Tickets are $100. Please contact Donna Stallings for more information and tickets at 313-999-2211 or visit http://www.wavefund.org. The evening’s program will include dancing, great food, live entertainment and a silent auction. Since 2003, WAVE has assisted over 9,100 families and households and has distributed over $2 million toward water bills in arrears to help retain services. Funds are earmarked specifically for payment of water and sewer bills.

The Institute for Population Health (IPH) is proud to be a co-sponsor of this event. To learn more about IPH visit us at http://www.ipophealth.org follow us on Twitter @IPH_Detroit or call (313) 309-9350.

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