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Monday, February 24, 2014

What Does it Take to Make a Great City: Investment in Water Maintenance

By Richard C. Clement

Detroit’s Water and Sewage Department Master Plan for Detroit. 

Cheryl Porter
On February 20th, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department’s (DSWD/ ) Retail Steering Committee presented an update on their Master Plan at New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church.   DSWD serves 3.6 million people in the City of Detroit and 129 communities in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties. This is a 2 year project that will direct recommendations on the 20 year plan for capital improvements and associated costs. The plan will help provide guidance in the areas of water rates, maintenance and a conceptual design for identified priority improvements for the first 5 years. Water rates are determined by a formula calculating the median income of the city/township it serves times %2. 

Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Porter gave a 45 minute presentation on the plan that included progress on:

1.       Signing 12 out of 17 consent agreements with the various Unions
2.       Describing the differential between the fixed assets and the maintenance costs
3.       Making a plan on maintaining the integrity of the  infrastructure

DSWD Master Plan
The department is responsible for maintenance and replacement of aging water mains.  The material used to upgrade the water system must be of a durable nature and designed to last more than 20-30 years.  Different compounds made from natural products that are combined with concrete to make it last longer must be considered because the water system is a vital part of the quality of life for everyone. 

Managing the water through metering and leak detection will play a crucial role in sustaining revenue and paying for system.  With the new technology, DSWD will be able to determine if a property is using water at an abnormal rate such as, someone having a leaking toilet or pipe in their home and giving reports on water usage at a daily rate.  This technology would help a home or property owner to manage their water use so much that you will be able to determine the cost of getting a plumber to fix a leak to save long term cost to the consumer.  As it stands now, the water system was losing money up until 2011 when the rates were increased. There was a small profit for 2011 until the projected maintenance costs of 2012 through 2014 were included.


Edna Bell
SERCH Consultants
The responsibility of managing the water is determined by a seven member board.  Currently there is no plan to have an elected water board similar to the district/at large model in the City of Detroit. There would be legitimate reasons to have an elected water board because they would be more accountable to the people. This would be much better than a Federal Court managing the water system because an elected board will lead to better transparency,  prompt disclosure of technical data and,  discussion of project ideas and recommendations with an emphasis on group problem solving to promote levels of trust between the public and DSWD.

Charlie Fleetham
Project Innovations Inc.
The actions above will create better Customer Service for DSWD and their customers. For the residents of Detroit, this is crucial information that will help our community grow and prosper. To help Detroit prosper we recommend that you get involved with your government by participating in the decision making process with, your writings on paper, email and, by your presence at steering committee meetings.


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