July 15, 2014 at 1:00 am


Is free water a human right?

Mass water shutoffs in Detroit have inspired a debate on whether or not free water access is a human right. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

I have seen public outrage over the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department shutting off water to people who don’t pay their bills. Some denounce the action as a violation of human rights. It caused me to recall an article by Marilyn vos Savant, the Guinness World Record holder for highest IQ. A reader asked, “Is everyone in the world entitled to have his or her basic needs met?” Marilyn replied, “Entitled by what authority? No, I don’t think we are. How can we live in freedom and maintain that we’re entitled to anything that we can’t get without the labor of others? Remember, if we’re entitled to the labor of others, that makes slaves of those others.”

It seems to me the people of Detroit should be the last population to condone slavery. It also strikes me as common sense that people should make it a high priority to pay their water bills. Water bills should be paid before buying new clothes, new phones, new televisions, cars, manicures, salon visits, gold chains, music CDs, tobacco, gifts and eating out.

At some point, people need to learn to live within their means.

Screaming human rights does not trump years of making bad decisions about money.

I know what it is like to be poor, handicapped with muscular dystrophy, out of a job for months on end, forced to swallow my pride and procure groceries with food stamps, doing without things I wanted for several years — but I always managed to pay my water bill, mainly because I saved for “a rainy day.”

Everyone knows you are not supposed to spend every penny in your pocket; you are supposed to put money aside to tide you through the rough times, even if that means never attending a ticketed sports event, concert, cinema or theater.

Since 76 percent of the people who had their water shut off in May ponied up the cash and had service restored within two days, we know that lack of money was not the real reason behind the majority’s circumstances leading to becoming water bill deadbeats. I’ve heard no reports that the remainder delinquent homeowners died of thirst.

My grandmother chose to live in a house with no running water, and she survived. When I was a child, I followed my grandfather to a natural spring where he gathered “sweet” (drinking) water regularly. The fire department never objected to us filling a milk jug with clean water. Today, even in the worst of economic hardship, water for human consumption can always be purchased with food stamps.

Some people feel they are entitled to running water, purified and delivered to their home.

This so-called “human right” that people are screaming about has nothing to do with getting free water.

On July 28, 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water.

At no point, though, did the U.N. promote free water for everybody.

On the contrary, the resolution is about cleanliness and accessibility for a fee. As long as you can get clean water somewhere in your town at a reasonable price, the U.N. resolution is satisfied. Every grocery store has clean water you can buy with food stamps. The “human rights” argument is therefore invalid.

Losing the privilege of running water inside your home because you choose not to pay your utility bills is a prime example of poor decision making.

Please don’t scream about human rights violations. Instead, learn to make better choices.

Anton Anderssen, Madison Heights