One version of this meme, “Detroit cuts off water to 30,000 families – builds 1,000 foot water slide downtown and charges $15 per ride,” has been shared more than 23,000 times with more than 22,000 likes.
And we call shenanigans, on the level that most on the left of the political spectrum would be screaming from the hills if Fox News pulled something like this. It’s a great example of leaving out information to make a snappy point.
First, the slide is to be set up by a private company, not the city, not a government or a quasi-governmental entity. Slide The City, based out of Utah, and whom holds events across the country, is going to have to pay for their share of water. By being a paying customer, it helps the system get additional revenue that helps it operate. From what we can tell, the City of Detroit isn’t paying for the giant slide, the Department of Water & Sewage isn’t paying for it, nor is the Great Lakes Water Authority part of this.
Second, it’s not even clear the slide is going in downtown Detroit. Multiple reports haven’t nailed down an exact location. Currently, the listed location on the website is in a zip code that’s in Plymouth/Canton, which is a suburb and not the city of Detroit. It could easily go anywhere in the region. And, the cost of the slide for riders could be a lot more than $15. There are packages up to $60. This is definitely a splurge for some.
Third, there is actually help for those who truly need assistance. The Detroit Water Fund, that’s administered by the United Way, has set aside more than $2 million and has helped thousands get back on track with payments with $2 million raised. According to their site, there are sources for customers who have an outstanding balance between $300 and $1,000; maintain “Average Water Usage” for their household size; and who are enrolled in DTE’s (our local power company) Low Income Self-Sufficiency Plan (LSP) or have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.
There have been events such as a “Water Affordability Fair” to get help to people, and when they didn’t feel they reached enough people, the city and partners expanded the program. There’s also the WAVE fund, as well as under the new regional Great Lakes Water Authority there will be $4.5 million set aside annually to support low income customers as part of the lease agreement between the city and suburbs.
The 3,000 per week number for shutoffs has tapered down, and stopped over the winter months. The priority is now shutting off delinquent commercial accounts and illegal accounts, according to multiple reports from the Mayor of Detroit’s office. There will be more water shutoffs this year, for sure. Fortunately, it seems as Mayor Mike Duggan’s office so far is doing a much better job than the former Emergency Manager did in this situation last year.
There’s a cost to operate a water system. You can’t get around that. We have to end up paying one way or another in direct fees or in higher taxes.
“Slide the City” will be a large event (possibly not even in the city, and we wouldn’t be surprised if after this it’s not in the city) that is, except for the fact it is a giant water slide, much the same as so many others that Detroit handles. No one got upset at Winter Blast when they put up a giant ice and snow slide, after all. There was a lot of man made snow and ice … and ice and snow is made of water.
If we’re going to follow the logic of denying this giant slide, we have to ask ourselves if we should deny every single private pool, sprinkler system, and every other use of water that’s not absolutely essential for life.
If we’re going to get angry about the slide, should we shut down every car wash in metro Detroit? That’s a private business that uses water for a purpose not essential for the existence of life, like the slide.
Is that reasonable?
After all, the slide uses 12,000-16,000 gallons of water per day. Auto Laundry news has a statistic that one moderate pressure tunnel car wash (the kind you drive your car into and it takes you through it while you sit in the car) uses 48,000 gallons on a decently active day.
This was masterfully played as a social media public relations opportunity to create awareness for shutoffs, which are a real problem, and there is no doubt it is creating a reaction among the community.
But it’s important to know that this meme and campaign is slippery as far as including all of the facts.