Water Equity Clearinghouse

We the People of Detroit

Detroit, MI

We the People of Detroit (WPD) is a community-led organization born out of the 2009 fight against the Mayoral Takeover of Detroit Public Schools. This group is committed to building a coalition of communities as well as building the capacity of communities through training, information sharing, and mobilization, all to ultimately improve quality of life. WPD has worked to resist unconstitutional and unethical initiatives seeking to take away voting rights, city assets, workers’ rights, pensions, and overall self-governance.

While WPD works extensively in Detroit, the organization extends its reach by partnering with organizations in Flint, Philadelphia, Boston, and Baltimore. In addition, WPD is working on and supports a national policy on water affordability to ensure that the crisis in Detroit cannot happen again elsewhere.

Efforts to Advance Water Equity

WPD's Community Research Collective recently published Mapping the Water Crisis, a report that investigates the relationship between public health and water shutoffs using spatial data. The Henry Ford Health System Global Health Initiative contributed health data to the report, and the Community Research Collective obtained shutoff data through the Freedom of Information Act. The information is divulged through maps, visualizations, and is a result of a two year, city-wide public health survey. This research is now being shared at universities, community teach-ins, public health organizations, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

WPD has managed the Detroit Water Rights Hotline (1-844-42WATER) for over three years, and established emergency water stations. Through this project, they collect water donations and deliver water to seniors and nursing mothers. The hotline assists people whose water has been shut off with making payment arrangements with Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. In addition, the campaign canvasses door to door, distributes information, and otherwise engages in community outreach.

The organization recognizes the importance of cultivating a new generation of leaders who understand the extent of social justice issues within their community. The Youth Leadership-NOW! program aims to teach interns about the water shut off crises, engage them in Detroit grassroots organizing, encourage participation in community service projects, give tours of neighborhoods and homes afflicted by water shutoffs, and help youth navigate theories of leadership and their roles in the community.

WPD collaborates with other organizations in the region, including the People's Water Board, Flint Rising, the Flint Hub, Milwaukee Water Commons, and the Midwest Environmental Justice Network.

The following resources provide more information on We the People of Detroit and the issues their work addresses: 

Access to Quality Water in Detroit

Panel discusses Detroit’s mass water shutoffs as public health crisis

Detroit to Flint and Back Again: Solidarity Forever

Detroit’s Water System Is Falling Apart. Your City Could Be Next.