Water Equity Clearinghouse

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department

Detroit, MI

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) is one of the nation’s largest water and sewer utilities and serves more than 200,000 residential and commercial accounts around Detroit. DWSD does focused work in managing stormwater, creating drainage solutions, protecting drinking water, restructuring pricing and rates for lower-income customers, and encouraging local contractors to apply for procurements.

As Detroit is sited along the Rouge River, the Detroit River, and Lake Erie, DWSD is committed to ensuring that polluted runoff does not enter these bodies of water. During wet weather, stormwater can overload the combined system and lead to flooding. DWSD is looking into green infrastructure solutions that would mitigate flooding as well as clean and filter any rainwater before it runs off into these bodies of water. The Alternative Rouge River Combined Sewer Overflow Control Program is a 25-year program designed to address these problems. DWSD also offers credits to homeowners who may want to put green infrastructure on their own property. These credits reduce drainage charges to help residents lower their utility costs. DWSD works with nonprofits to provide technical and financial assistance to homeowners interested in implementing such a project.

DWSD is also mindful of local contractors who may want to get involved with infrastructure projects. The Michigan Inter-governmental Trade Network online system helps local businesses stay aware of the opportunities and bids available to them.

Efforts to Advance Water Equity

With a 40 percent poverty rate in Detroit, affordability is a significant problem for the utility. To address these challenges, Detroit Water & Sewerage Department launched the Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP). WRAP is an innovative payment assistance plan that helps low-income residents pay their water bills. It provides qualifying customers at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty threshold help in paying current and past-due water bills. Eligible customers receive a $25 monthly credit toward current water bills with any arrears suspended for 12-24 months. Customers who successfully make their monthly payments for one year receive an additional credit of up to $700 toward the deferred arrears. Qualifying residents with water usage exceeding 120 percent of the average household water consumption in the city are also eligible for a free home water conservation audit, and an additional $1,000 for plumbing repairs based on audit results. More than 800 residents have received audits with nearly 560 receiving free plumbing repairs. Customers who are currently enrolled in WRAP and remain in compliance with the program’s payment plan will not have their water service interrupted.