Diversifying Clean Water: An Examination of Drinking Water Quality and Social Disparities in Michigan

Tyra Blair, Tennessee State University


Water is one of the most essential resources required to sustain life; however, it could be detrimental to the health of those without access to water that is properly treated. The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 set regulations to protect citizens from naturally occurring and man-made contaminants, but some are still without clean and safe water and is speculated to be because of their race. This research examines the disproportionality of available clean water provided by government sources in Michigan and its correlation with race and household income. Through statistical analysis, it has been found that minority and lower income areas are more likely to be exposed to water contaminants through automotive industrial activity, especially lead. Lower income cities, such as Hamtramck and Benton Harbor, have an average of 14.8 drinking water standard violations totaled with the highest being 99 total violations, while higher income cities, like Novi and Bloomfield hills, have an average of 4 total violations. Analysis found that cities, such as Flint and Detroit, that have a higher minority population are 3 times more likely to have a water standard violation, and the minority population is proportionally related to the likelihood of industrial plants having higher rates of activity in these areas. These communities also face a higher risk of birth defects, developmental issues in children, and organ failure in adults due to continuous exposure to water contaminants, with Flint showing a 0.36% increase in birth defects from 2013 to 2020, which was the duration of the Flint Water Crisis.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Tyra Blair, "Diversifying Clean Water: An Examination of Drinking Water Quality and Social Disparities in Michigan" (2021). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI28648731.