Water Research: Mapping and Visualizing Publicly Accessible Data

The Community Research Collective has used the knowledge gained through working with public data to lead community workshops about how to make FOIA requests. We worked with the Detroit Health Department to use the data to illustrate the impact of water shutoffs on public health.

Major Water Research Accomplishments

  • Created maps and visualizations related to Detroit’s water shutoff crisis
  • Published a book, "Mapping the Water Crisis: The Dismantling of African-American Neighborhoods in Detroit" (2016), on the results of our water-related research. This is volume one of a three-part series documenting the effects of austerity and its relationship to race in Detroit.
  • Executed a two-year, city-wide public health survey investigating the impact of water shutoffs on public health
  • Have been invited to present our research at universities, community teach-ins, public health organizations, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
  • Completed a study with Henry Ford Health System, which shows a correlation between water shutoffs and water-related illnesses.

Purchase Our Book!


Purchase a copy of our first publication, "Mapping the Water Crisis" for only $20 (plus shipping) via Paypal.

Data Visualization Collection


We created visual representations of much of the information discovered through our research. There is a lot here, so we have organized our visualizations by topic. Click the links below to jump to each section if you're interested in specific information.

Water Maps_Web3

A map showing Detroit in blue and the suburbs and other areas covered by the Detroit Water and Sewarage Department in teal. Black lines throughout show the DWSD infrastructure.

12 small maps of metropolitan Detroit, each spanning a period of 10 years from 1900 to 2016, showing massive expansion of the water system to the suburbs, which appears greatest starting in 1970.

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A timeline marking the times emergency management and shutoffs started and progressed along with instances of community resistance efforts.

Health Impact

Read more about the health impact study here

1 Patients admitted to Henry Ford Hospital with water-related illnesses were significantly more likely to live on a block that has experienced water shutoffs. Patients diagnosed with skin and soft tissue diseases were 1.48 times more likely to live on a block that has experienced water shutoffs.
2 Living on a block that has experienced water shutoffs increases the likelihood that the patient will be diagnosed with a water-related illness.
3 Patients who are most likely to experience water-related illnesses resulting from water shutoffs are also the most socially vulnerable, according to the Center for Disease Control’s “Social Vulnerability Index.”

'Social Vulnerabilty Index' Ranking which takes into account poverty, access to housing, health care and transportation, language, household composition and disability, 2014. Vulnerability is indicated by shades of red, with the darkest red being the most vulnerable.

Residential Water Shutoffs in Detroit based on compiled DWSD FOIA data, January 2015—February 2016 (by Census Block Group)*
*This is an incomplete data set which likely represents about half of all shutoffs that took place in this time period. If DWSD would provide a full data set per our FOIA requests, a much more robust study would be possible.

Emergency Management

Water Maps_Web

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Great Lakes Water Authority Takes Control of Regional Water System

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department

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Homes and Foreclosure

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A map of Detroit showing the number of foreclosures in shades of violet. The darkest shading (correlating to the most auctions) is in east and west Detroit, with little to none (no violet shading) in the downtown area.

Water Pricing Discrepancies

Chart showing wholesale vs. retail markup prices charged for water by DWSD. It lists 8 municipalities along with Detroit and shows that a majority of those 8 other municipalities keep a vast majority of the money paid by residents for water rather than paying it to the DWSD. All money paid in Detroit goes to the DWSD. The wholesale price they charge other municipalities for water is much smaller than what they charge Detroit residents.

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