Last month, Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) announced a comprehensive neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach to begin to upgrade the city’s water and sewer systems through a five-year, $500 million program. Most of Detroit’s water and sewer pipes are more than 80 years old and there has not been a massive infrastructure upgrade since 1930.
The DWSD Capital Improvement Program (CIP) addresses the need to improve water and sewer systems’ reliability. Previously the department solely used the frequency of water main breaks and water-in-basement complaints to drive the strategy. This led to projects being done across the city without a cohesive plan for a neighborhood. Now, DWSD assesses the condition of the water and sewer infrastructure and develops a plan for rehabilitating those systems, which takes into account other public or private investments to a neighborhood. Factors such as the probability of a failure (breaks, sinkholes, etc.), as well as the consequence of failure (i.e. near a school or hospital, the risk is higher) are also included to prioritize the CIP strategy.
“Four years ago, we announced the creation of the Great Lakes Water Authority to operate the regional system with a $50 million annual lease payment to be used to address our aging infrastructure,” said Mayor Duggan. “Now, Detroiters will see and experience the benefit of the GLWA lease agreement when in front of their house, behind their house or around the corner, they see water mains being replaced, sewer pipes lined and green stormwater infrastructure projects constructed. The team at DWSD is taking a planned, data-based approach to maximize this $500 million program, and we will put Detroiters to work on these projects.”
The DWSD five-year, $500 million CIP is possible due to the $50 million annual lease payment from the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) to operate the regional water and sewer systems for the next 37 years, and funds from improving the department’s collection rate in the past three years, from 77 percent to 94 percent.
In calendar year 2018, DWSD upgraded 25 miles of water main, lined 22 miles of sewer piping and replaced 173 lead service lines. This was the most water and sewer construction in the past 15 years.