The United Nations has called it a human rights violation.
But the city of Detroit continues to warn people their access to water will be cut off if they get behind on their water bills.
In a release dated Oct. 29, the city's Department of Water and Sewage said that since May, it has warned 49,824 account holders that they face water shutoffs.
Just over half of those account holders have taken advantage of a donation-backed fund created to help pay their bills.
But Lynna Kaucheck, the senior organizer for Food & Water Watch in Detroit, said it's possible that fund users may still have faced warnings or even shut-offs; many make one payment and then fail to make further ones, she said.
The Department states that between January and October, it actively shut off water to 16,078 residential units and 651 commercial accounts.
Once residents' water supplies are cut off, they become completely dependent on nonprofits like the Detroit Water Brigade to obtain water supplies, she said.
"They're just on their own," she said. While they're able to receive emergency deliveries, "There's not enough water for them to flush their toilets, bathe, cook, or wash their clothes."
She also said the payment plan the city has offered up does not represent a long term solution.
Her organization has called for a more affordable rate structure, one based on individual household’s income and ability to pay.
A spokesman for the Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.