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. Water is a human right.
Access to clean water for all is even more vital during emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, 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 degraded lakes, streams, and groundwater; more water shutoffs; well contamination from PFAS and other emerging contaminants; contamination from septic tanks; more combined sewer overflow (CSO) events; phosphorus pollution; and overall increased health risks and deteriorating communities.
FLOW and our allies—including Michigan Clean Water Action, Michigan Environmental Council, People’s Water Board, and Sierra Club—are working to research, analyze, and ultimately select funding and/or financing solutions to address Michigan’s pressing water needs, laying the groundwork for future policy work.
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 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.