Detroit water meets, surpasses federal and state standards for quality and safety, study says

Detroit water meets, surpasses federal and state standards for quality and safety, study says

If you want to find out more about the water coming into your home or business check out the 2017 Water Quality Report from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) and the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA).

The report highlights the performance of DWSD and GLWA water professionals in delivering drinking water as well as shares information on the safety of Detroit water and provides information on paying water bills.

“Together, we are committed to protecting public health and maintaining open communication with the community about our drinking water,” DWSD says in the report. You may view the 2017 Water Quality Report for the city of Detroit here.

In total, DWSD operates more than 2,700 miles of water mains within the city to carry the water to your home or business. According to the study, the tap water meets or surpasses all federal and state standards for quality and safety.

Detroit’s water comes from many sources including the Detroit River, situated within the Lake St. Clair, Clinton River, Detroit River, Rouge River and Ecorse River watersheds in the U.S. It also comes from parts of the Thames River, Little River, Turkey Creek and Sydenham watersheds in Canada.

In 2004, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, DWSD, and the Michigan Public Health Institute, performed a source water assessment to determine the susceptibility of potential contamination in these watersheds. The susceptibility rating is on a seven-tiered scale from “very low” to “very high” based primarily on geologic sensitivity, water chemistry and contaminant sources.

“The susceptibility of the Detroit River source water intakes were determined to be highly susceptible to potential contamination,” the study says. “However, all four Detroit water treatment plants that use source water from the Detroit River have historically provided satisfactory treatment to meet drinking water standards.”

For additional information about the Source Water Assessment report, please call 313-926-8102.

The DWSD is also aware of ongoing concerns about lead in the water. The water the department provides contains a corrosion inhibitor, orthophosphate, to minimize lead release from lead service lines and other lead components. The study points while DWSD is responsible for providing high quality drinking water, it cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components.

If you are concerned the report makes the following suggestions:

  • If water has been sitting for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by running water from your tap until the water is cold and then running the water for two more minutes before using for drinking or cooking.
  • Always use cold water for drinking and cooking

In 2016, DWSD conducted Lead and Copper Rule, one year before a requirement by the EPA. The sampling results show that all the homes tested had lead levels below the EPA action level, which is 15 parts per billion (ppb). The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality certified DWSD’s 90th percentile for lead was 4 ppb, well below the EPA action level.

The number of children with elevated blood levels in Detroit has decreased by about half since 2009. Home abatement among affected children, outreach and education services for children and families affected by lead, and the removal of blighted homes through demolition have helped reduce the number.

In addition, with more than 50 percent of Detroiters beging renters, the City has also taken a tougher stance on rental units in older homes, many of which have lead paint. A new ordinance allows for stronger enforcement of lead requirements, including a newly required lead inspection for every home. Under the new ordinance, landlords that do not have a certificate of compliance (unaddressed lead issues are one reason to withhold a CofC) cannot legally collect rent from their tenants until the issues are addressed and a CofC is issued.

The City of Detroit has taken steps to remove hazardous lead sources in homes, conduct school and home water testing, improve compliance of rental owners and strengthes environmental standards for lead.

If you are concerned about lead in your water, visit or call 313-964-9300. Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods and steps you may take to minimize exposure are available from the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or at DWSD offers frequently asked questions and other information about lead and water quality at

DWSD does have a backlog of deferred maintenance on the water and sewer infrastructure. This problem was largely created by a lower bill collection rate. When the collection rate is below 80 percent, it provides limited funds for DWSD to perform maintenance and repairs on the water and sewer system, the study says.

Increasing the collection rate from 77 to 92 percent since 2016 brought in an additional $56 million. Adding those dollars to the $50 million annual lease payment from the GLWA gave DWSD the financial capacity to address some of the water and sewer infrastructure.

DWSD launched an aggressive capital improvement program in 2017 renewing 30 miles of water and sewer infrastructure compared with 10 miles in 2015. It also purchased additional equipment to clean and maintain the city-owned catch basins (storm drains), which began summer 2017 and increased capacity to restore lawns, sidewalks and driveways.

In addition, DWSD is embarking on a five-year, $500 million capital improvement program to renew the water and sewer infrastructure in the City of Detroit. Several water and sewer mains improvements in 2018 are scheduled this year. Current and upcoming water main replacement projects include:

  • West Outer Drive
  • Several sections between Southfield and Wyoming
  • Lahser, between Seven Mile and Eight Mile roads
  • Berg Road, between Vassar and Leewin
  • Biltmore, from Fenkell to McNichols
  • Fenkell, from Bentler to Virgil
  • Five Points, from Seven Mile to Eight Mile roads

The locations are based on engineering studies that include the number of breaks, useful life of the main, pressure evaluations, and other criteria. DWSD says it will communicate with residents and businesses before, during, and after construction.

The study includes information on DWSD’s bill payment plans.

DWSD has expanded its bill payment sites to 37 locations in and around Detroit through self-service ATM-style kiosks. You can use cash, personal check, or credit/debit card to pay your water bill. Your payment posts in real time.

The QLESS plan lets you make an appointment scheduling system so you can:

  • Call or text ahead for a place in line
  • Receive calls or text updates of your place in line
  • Schedule appointments for specific dates and times

You can also use the DWSD Customer Care website to access your account, pay your water bill, create payments arrangements and see your water usage in real-time.

DWSD says these enhancements will help you skip the line and reduce your wait time on the phone or at a DWSD Customer Care Center. To access the new features, or find a payment kiosk, visit or call 313-267-8000.

If you are behind in your water bill you are eligible for the 10/30/50 Plan. Under the plan:

  • A deposit of 10 percent of the past due balance is required to enter the payment arrangement.
  • The balance of the past due amount is equally spread up to a 24 month period which must be paid in addition to the current monthly bill.

For example, if a resident has a $1,000 past due amount he or she pays 10 percent or $100 of the past due leaving a $900 balance. The amount of $900 is divided over 24 months at $37.50/month. The customer pays $37.50 each month in addition to his or her current bill.

If you default on the 10 percent payment plan, you may re-enroll paying 30 percent of the past due balance. However, if you default a second time, you may re-enroll paying 50 percent of the past due balance.

Customers may apply for the 10/30/50 Plan through the DWSD Customer Care portal at or at a Customer Care Center.

The WRAP, or Water Residential Assistance Program, helps qualifying customers at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty threshold pay current and past due water bills. A family of four, for example, who has a household income at or below $37,650, is eligible to apply, whether you have a past due balance or not.

WRAP benefits include:

  • A $25 monthly credit toward current water bills with the past due balance suspended for 12-24 months
  • An additional credit of up to $350 toward the arrearages (up to $700 during a 12-month period) for customers who successfully make their monthly payments for six months
  • A free water conservation audit with water usage exceeding 120 percent of the average household water consumption and an additional amount up to $1,000 for minor household plumbing repairs based on audit results

Residential households currently enrolled in WRAP and in compliance with the program will not have their water service interrupted.

Eligible residents may apply for WRAP by calling 313-386-9727 or learn more at WRAP is a GLWA program administered by Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency.

To stay informed about water quality, register for water alerts via email and text message.

You may view the 2017 Water Quality Report for the city of Detroit here. You may request a copy by emailing DWSD, visiting a DWSD Customer Care Center or calling 313-267-8000.


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