Should Decatur stop water shutoffs during excessive heat?
Excessive heat kills more individuals than any other weather-related cause of death. Heat-related deaths are preventable, and Decatur can do more to mitigate heat-related impacts. In the long-term, the city needs to monitor the number of heat-related illnesses and deaths and establish a plan to reduce them. In the short-term, the city council could stop water shutoffs of occupied residences during extreme heat (the city currently has no policy associated with water shutoffs during heat advisories). Just as electric and gas utility companies are not allowed to shut off power during the winter months so occupants do not freeze, the city’s water utility would not be allowed to turn off the water of occupied residences during heat emergencies so residents are able to keep hydrated.
In Decatur, the median household income is $45,111, the poverty rate is 19.7%, and there are thousands of families in the city that are rent or mortgage distressed. These families should not be forced to decide whether to pay the rent/mortgage, buy groceries, purchase medication, or pay utility bills during times of extreme environmental conditions, conditions that are expected to worsen further in the coming years due to global warming.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, during excessive heat individuals should stay cool, stay hydrated, and stay informed. Prohibiting water shutoffs during heat advisories is an action the city council can take to help residents stay hydrated. It is an action that may very well save a person’s life.
In Decatur, residents are under an Excessive Heat Warning until Friday, July 28 at 8:00 PM and a Heat Advisory until Saturday, July 29 at 7:00 PM. For those looking to escape the heat, cooling centers are available at the Decatur Civic Center, Oasis Day Center, Macon County Department of Human Services, Decatur/Macon County Senior Center, and Decatur Public Library.