A new online campaign is helping Detroit residents keep their water turned on, even if they are behind on their bills.
The Detroit Water Project connects donors with Detroit residents who are delinquent on their water payments. The website lets donors submit direct payments to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.
The campaign's #DetroitWater hashtag is helping to spread the word about the initiative, and it has been tweeted thousands of times. More than 300 Detroit residents have registered for the Detroit Water Project, and the campaign has received contributions from 2,400 donors.
The city's ongoing practice of shutting off the water of Detroiters who have bills over 60 days past due or owe at least $150 has sparked controversy. Last week, on the one-year anniversary of Detroit's historic bankruptcy filing, residents took to the streets to protest the city's water shutoffs.
In June, the United Nations released a statement calling Detroit's disconnection of water services to thousands of customers an affront to human rights. Citing the struggling city's high poverty and unemployment rates, the UN said the shutoffs for Detroiters who genuinely can't afford to pay off their bills a is violation of the right to water.
On Monday, the water shutoffs were temporarily suspended for a 15-day grace period.
The founders of the Detroit Water Project met and conceived of the project over Twitter. Engineer and Code for America fellow Tiffani Bell, and Kristy Tillman, a design director for a start up, collaborated remotely from Oakland and Boston. Three days after their initial tweet back and forth, Bell and Tillman had their first donor on the site.
"We wanted a way to make immediate impact to provide relief to Detroit residents," said Tillman, noting that many existing crowdfunding options require recipients to wait until the end of a campaign to receive the donations. "Technology is merely a tool. How it's used depends on who's wielding it."