Why are Detroiters’ Water Bills Skyrocketing (And What Can Tenants Do)?


Why are Detroiters’ Water Bills Skyrocketing (And What Can Tenants Do)?

Bills, bills, bills. Utility bills are constant and never-ending.

It definitely doesn’t help when costs are increasing too. Your water bill is one of them, and if it’s causing you stress, you’re not alone.

Water rates have increased as much as 40% since 2010 in Michigan. Unfortunately, this upward trend is expected to continue, with rates rising faster in urban areas such as Metro Detroit.

So, what can you do to manage this issue as someone trying to juggle bills, loans, and other expenses?

Understand Your Water Bill

To lower your monthly water bill, you first need to understand what comprises your dues. The majority of the charges are fixed, but your water usage, which on average contributes 16% of the total bill, is entirely manageable and is up to you and your daily habits. Here is a guide on how you are currently billed in Metro Detroit and how to estimate your costs by monitoring your water meter.

  • Block 1 Rate – The fixed-rate charged to a customer that consumes 4,500 gallons or less per month
  • Block 2 Rate- The fixed-rate charged to a customer that consumes 4,500 gallons or more per month

Fixed Rate* – Fixed monthly amount for eligible low-income households

Diagram from Metro Detroit Water and Sewerage Department

Conserve Water Efficiently

Because there is a particular threshold of gallons per month that can dictate the rates charged to you, there are several things you can implement to lower your water usage. According to a recent study, individual Americans use an average of 101.5 gallons of water daily. You can further break down your water usage into 6 major categories, with the corresponding helpful tips.

Bath Tub (36 gallons)

Bathtub use tops the list of consumption-heavy activities. If you can help it, try not to fill the tub fully and opt to fill it halfway, i.e., for children’s nighttime baths or quick after-work dips. But if you want to save more, resist your urge for baths and opt for showers to decrease consumption. Showers need approximately 45% less water.

Toilet (18-24 gallons)

Second on the list can be attributed to the frequency of toilet flushes, needing 3 gallons per flush. Some countries actually make it a practice to flush less frequently, hence the saying, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” Follow this, and you’ll be able to lessen your consumption.

Shower (20 gallons)

In colder climates e.g. Metro Detroit in the winter, you can do with less frequent showers. If you really need one, take shorter showers, as each minute costs you 2 gallons a minute.

Washing Machine (15 gallons)

There are several habits you can adopt so that your washing machine uses less water. Make it a habit to reuse clothes before putting them in the wash. As much as possible, try to hand wash your clothes if you cannot produce a full load, as some washing machines still use the same water levels regardless of the size of your load.

Dishwasher (4-10 gallons)

Despite common misconceptions, using a dishwasher is actually more efficient than hand washing, granted you have the updated type of appliance. For more traditional dishwashers, consumption can range from 10-15 gallons, versus energy star dishwashers that only take up 3.5 gallons. Handwashing consumption varies greatly, depending on what you’re used to doing, but this greatly varies at 9-27 gallons per load.

Hygiene and Drinking Water (3.5 gallons)

If there are common amenities in your building, workplace, or local gym, try to get some hygiene tasks out of the way by taking advantage of the facilities. Brush your teeth, wash your face, or fill up your water jug in other common places instead of at home.

Recommend Eco-Friendly Solutions to Your Landlord

There are many ways that you can convince your landlord to go for more eco-friendly, water-efficient alternatives. This will also benefit your landlord in the long run during vacancies, to avoid maintenance costs, and to boost property value as almost 63% of tenants value eco-friendliness in a property.

Some examples you can recommend are installing low-flow toilets and showerheads among other water-saving fixtures. Another example you can give is trying more conscious landscaping choices using low-maintenance plants which lessens outdoor expenditure. Lastly, remember to flag your landlord on leaks and issues that may be costing you more than your actual water usage.

Adjust to the Situation

Overall, costly water bills are completely manageable if you put in a conscious effort using the steps above.

Although the Michigan local government is aware of this problem and officials are introducing a new bill package addressing water affordability, the mechanics of the bill are still being discussed. While waiting for these statewide changes, it’s good to be proactive on your finances, such as saving on your monthly utility bills.

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