New U-M study highlights the negative impacts of water insecurity on metro Detroit

How much does not being able to afford water affect one's well being? A new study from the University of Michigan sought to answer this question for residents of metro Detroit. 

A research team from university's School for Environment and Sustainability surveyed 413 households in Southeast Michigan and published some interesting, and troubling, findings. 

Among the group surveyed, 39 percent had children and 22 percent were unemployed. 74 of the households had their water shut off at some point. 

Average water bills in the region was nearly $100 per month, which accounts for an average of 10 percent of monthly income, exceeding the 4.5 percent affordability benchmark set by the EPA. Households reported being able to spend only $53.53 a month, which means residents are cutting back from paying for other amenities and goods in their lives. Responds said they had spent less money than desired on rent, transportation, health care, fresh produce, and more. 

And to lower water bills, people used less water on daily tasks like showering, drinking, and cleaning. According to the study, "When people experience water insecurity, they tend to report higher levels of shame, stress, and depression."

Increased job security would help a great deal, though about 30 percent of the people in the study were retired or children too young to work. A more comprehensive solution, according to the study, would be to increase monetary assistance to needy families while having utilities charge a lower amount. 

Read the full study, "Household Water Insecurity in Metropolitan Detroit: Measuring the Affordability Gap," here

Read more articles by Aaron Mondry.

Aaron Mondry is a Detroit-based freelance writer. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @AaronMondry.
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