By Lucas Barinaga
NB: We thank Hope4Flint for helping us distribute our surveys and collect answers. The responses underneath may reflect a bias of sourcing data via a single channel. (We tried to get data from more people — the survey was public — but the people of Flint may be tired of answering outsiders’ questions. Our survey results are based on 20-21 r
Solutions in Flint will depend on ability to pay — and willingness to pay. To get an idea of ability, we asked our anonymous respondents their household monthly income:
It looks as if around 2/3rds of our respondents make less than the US median household income of $4.600 per month. This figure might be sufficient to pay for water service (the average bill is $75/month in nearby Detroit, which is both more expensive than the national average but perhaps cheaper than Flint bills would be if customers had to pay to restore their system), but 90% of our respondents are unwilling to pay for water service, leaving comments such as ‘I am only paying for flushing the toilet’ or ‘why pay if you are still being poisoned?’
Who should pay? 80 percent said the state of Michigan and 20 percent said the city of Flint. Sadly, when asked a follow up question (“Do you feel that the government is effectively trying to solve this crisis?”), most said No.
Unfortunately for the people of Flint, the government is not stepping in, which means they need to choose between paying for “poisoned water” or losing their home. As of May 19th, more than 8,000 Flint residents have been threatened with foreclosure for failure to pay their bills.
Are they not paying because they are too poor or too unwilling? The answer may not seem important when the system needs money to pay for costs and restoration (the cost of new supplies coming from Detroit just increased by 4.7%), but it’s important to the people of Flint. Why should they have to pay when others have messed up their city’s water system?
Update (14 June): “Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has charged five water officials — including a member of Gov. Rick Snyder’s cabinet and a former emergency manager — with manslaughter related to their alleged failure to act in during the Flint Water Crisis.”
By Lucas Barinaga
NB: We thank Hope4Flint for helping us distribute our surveys and collect answers. The responses underneath may reflect a bias of sourcing data via a single channel. (We tried to get data from more people — the survey was public — but the people of Flint may be tired of answering outsiders’ questions. Our survey results are based on 20-21 responses.)
Our campaign in Flint helped us understand citizens’ resilience, perseverance and a painstakingly slow path to normality.
The answers to our first question (“Do you drink Flint tap water?”) were surprising but explainable:
Why did so many people say yes? It appeared that most people who answered “yes” misunderstood the question, as 95% of respondents later said they “knew nobody who drinks Flint water.”
Where did they get their drinking water from? 90 percent said they get it from stores, donations or PODS (water resource sites that offer filters, bottled water and water testing kits).
Even though we expected that our respondents would not drink tap water, we thought that were avoiding it because they did not know how to get or use the water filters that are widely available. We were wrong: 80 percent of respondents knew how to purify their water with filters, but they still don’t want to drink it.
The age-old question is: if there is a way to clean your water in the woods, but nobody knows that it is there, does it exist? This seems to be a very fitting question that both the water utilities and residents of Flint, Michigan are struggling with. Since the Flint water crisis of 2014 occurred media coverage of the issue has substantially fallen. Sadly, the danger of drinking tap water hasn’t, but it is on its way. What has changed is that the city has been great in offering bottled water, water filters, information on how to use them, change them, and even how to test your own water. Thing is, many residents of Flint haven’t been able to use these resources information.
This failure to connect shows that the water utilities of the world must establish a sustainable link between their citizens and themselves. To address this we are glad to announce that the City Water Project will be starting a campaign in Flint. We are excited to work together with people from the ‘vehicle city’ known for its resilience. To find out more visit our website and if you are a resident of Flint please help us by filling out our survey here.