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The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) is one of the largest water and sewer utilities in the United States serving more than 200,000 Detroit residential and commercial accounts that includes a city population of nearly 680,000. DWSD’s water network consists of more than 2,700 miles of transmission and distribution mains and nearly 3,000 miles of sewer collection piping.
On January 1, 2016, the City of Detroit began leasing regional water and sewer infrastructure, as well as water and wastewater treatment facilities, to the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). The regional system built by DWSD, serves 126 municipalities in seven southeast Michigan counties. The agreement between DWSD and GLWA includes a $50 million annual lease payment for 40 years to replace and rehabilitate DWSD’s aging water and sewer system. DWSD continues to retain ownership of the regional assets.
DWSD has a rich history as a public utility dating back to 1836.Known for decades as the Department of Water Supply (DWS), the department officially became the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department in 1973 under Detroit's City Charter. Both DWSD and GLWA are headquartered in the Water Board Building located at 735 Randolph Street in Detroit.
DWSD is a branch of city government. In 1852, the City of Detroit's Common Council formed a Board of Trustees to operate the water system and provide it with hands-on management. In 1853, the state legislature transformed the Board of Trustees into the Board of Water Commissioners (BOWC) which continues as DWSD's governing body today. All seven current commissioners are Detroit residents, appointed by the Mayor.
DWSD is organized into five operating groups: Customer Care, Field Services, Finance and Procurement, Administration, and Meter Operations. By Michigan statute, water and sewer rates are based on the cost of service only. The department receives no subsidies from property taxes.
The BOWC holds an annual public hearing on DWSD’s fiscal year budget which includes proposed water and sewer rates for the following fiscal year. DWSD’s day-to-day operations are managed by Director Gary Brown who has more than30-years of dedicated service to the citizens of Detroit. Deputy Director, Palencia Mobley, P.E., is Chief Engineer overseeing field operations and infrastructure. Both Brown and Mobley were appointed by Mayor Mike Duggan in late 2015 and confirmed by the Board of Water Commissioners in January 2016.
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department recognizes that good municipal citizenship involves more than operational efficiencies. The department is committed to identifying opportunities consistent with its mission to provide safe drinking water, reliable customer service and environmental integrity. In 2015, DWSD sponsored or participated in a wide-range of outreach activities. In addition to numerous community group and block club meetings, DWSD participated in the March of Dimes March for Babies, Detroit River Water Festival, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, among others.
Since 1985, DWSD participates in celebrating National Drinking Water Week and gives recognition to student winners for research in water-related projects through the annual Science and Engineering Fair of Metropolitan Detroit.