Clean Water for All

Water is a Human Right and Even More Vital during the COVID-19 Pandemic

FLOW and our allies are working to research, analyze, and advance funding and financing solutions to address Michigan’s pressing water needs equitably and with the involvement of those people and communities most deeply impacted.

Michigan faces a water infrastructure funding gap—a need exceeding available resources—of approximately $800 million per year to properly manage wastewater, drinking water, and stormwater. Closing this funding gap is imperative if Michigan is to continue meeting its responsibility to promote public health, protect the environment, and prevent household water shutoffs.

Access to clean water for all is a human right and even more vital during emergencies including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis, widespread household water shutoffs in Detroit and elsewhere, and the Flint water crisis. The cost of inaction and the failure to fund water infrastructure continues to result in more water shutoffs; flooded basements and freeways; sewer overflows into surface water; degraded lakes, streams, and groundwater; well contamination from PFAS and other emerging contaminants; contamination from septic tanks; phosphorus pollution; and overall increased health risks and deteriorating communities.

Water For All Of Michigan

Water for All of Michigan (WFAM) partners—Clean Water Action, FLOW, People’s Water Board Coalition, and the Sierra Club—have united to identify, analyze, and advance financing and funding options and policies for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure that prioritize equity, end shutoffs of residential drinking water in metropolitan Detroit, Flint, Benton Harbor, and beyond, and protect Michigan’s groundwater from privatization to meet our goal of securing safe, affordable water for all of Michigan.

Since 2018, WFAM partners have conducted policy research, legal, and sociopolitical landscape analyses of the problems and potential solutions to Michigan’s water infrastructure crisis. In the fall of 2020, Water for All of Michigan, in collaboration with the Michigan Environmental Council, produced an extensive report—WFAM—WATER FOR ALL OF MICHIGAN: Financing and Securing Access to Safe, Clean, and Affordable Water for All—with innovative recommendations for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure.

Learn more about the WFAM project and report.

Model Legislation: Public Water, Public Justice 

The Great Lakes belong to all of us. And yet, state policy in Michigan allows private for-profit corporations to extract these waters and sell them for mammoth profits. This is not only inconsistent with public trust law, but a raw deal for the citizenry. At the same time that Nestlé is taking public water at virtually no cost and reaping windfall profits, thousands of Michigan citizens – both city dwellers and rural residents – do not have access to clean, safe and affordable water. Over 100,000 Detroit households have suffered water shutoffs and thousands of Flint children and residents suffered lead poisoning in the fourth year of an ongoing water crisis. No current law addresses both the sale of water for profit and the protection of drinking water and public health with new infrastructure funds.

FLOW developed Public Water, Public Justice model legislation in September 2018 to bring these colliding water crises under a comprehensive legal framework and to recalibrate Michigan’s priorities on protecting its water and its people. Michigan and the seven other Great Lakes states should pass this model legislation drafted by FLOW in order to:

  • Affirm public ownership over water,
  • Protect sensitive water resources,
  • Prohibit the sale of water except for the sale of bottled water authorized by a royalty licensing system, and
  • Recoup for public purposes royalties derived from these bottled water sales.

This model law places royalties into a public water, health and justice trust fund to serve people and communities for specific dedicated public purposes, such as replacing lead service lines or creating water affordability plans for disadvantaged people or cities and rural communities.

Get Off the Bottle

In May 2018 FLOW launched our Get Off the Bottle, which combines facts, law, and policy with good old fashioned humor about the absurd implications of bottled water, whose sales surpassed the sales of soda for the first time in 2016.

Did you ever think there would be a moment in your lifetime when bottled water sales would outstrip soda sales? For some of us, the question is even more basic: did you ever think companies like Nestle, Coke, Pepsi, Evian would make billions of dollars annually by selling you tap water (which you already paid for via taxes and fees) in plastic water bottles? I don’t know about you, but I guess I spent a lot of my childhood dehydrated! 

The Get Off the Bottle campaign is designed to get citizens thinking and to empower them to make smart, protective decisions for our Great Lakes. We raise important questions about the cost, misleading labels, flavor, safety, energy waste, harm to streams and wetlands, lack of disclosure, plastic waste and other related issues. And what better way to explore these subtle yet complex issues than with humor?

Bottled water is part of a larger conversation and awareness about interconnected issues of failing water infrastructure, water affordability, equity, and privatization. As we launch this campaign, we will get bottled water in people’s thoughts and out of their hands.