‘The Hardest Work I’ve Ever Done’–What It’s Like Living Without Water in Detroit

WDET’s Jake Neher speaks with Valerie Blakely, a mother of five who lives on the North End in Detroit.

Photo of water dripping from a faucet.

Jake Neher/WDET

Detroit’s water department has shut off water to tens of thousands of homes in recent years. Officials say the number of shutoffs has dropped significantly since a peak in 2014.

But the problem persists in a city with a poverty rate over 30 percent.

Click here to find out more about the shutoffs and what activists say could help fix the problem.

WDET’s Jake Neher speaks with Valerie Blakely, a mother of five who lives on the North End in Detroit.

Blakely tells Neher what it’s like living without water.  

“It means hauling water every day,” says Blakely. “It means hauling water so that your kids can brush their teeth and make sure that they’re okay and bathe and are hydrated and all of the important things that you do with water — have clean clothes.”

“That means hauling water. It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.


  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.