Mayor, DWSD announce Detroit’s first income-based water affordability plan


Mayor, DWSD announce Detroit’s first income-based water affordability plan

  • New fixed-rate plan reflects advocates’ recommendation that water should be no more than 1.8% of the average household income.
  • SNAP and Food Assistance Program enrolled households will have $18 monthly water bills beginning August 1.
  • Qualifying Detroit households who enroll will also have their water bill balance erased.
  • Income-eligible Detroiters apply through Wayne Metro at 313-386-9727 or
  • DWSD will launch 60-day public education and listening session to hear feedback and identify improvements before January launch.

DETROIT – Today, Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) Director Gary Brown, community leaders and water advocates announced the DWSD Lifeline Plan, Detroit’s first-ever income-based water affordability plan. The plan was approved today by the Board of Water Commissioners.

The Detroit Lifeline Plan, developed in partnership with Detroit community advocates and water affordability experts, offers qualifying customers a fixed monthly rate as low as $18 per month and erases past debt on Detroiter’s water bills.  It also will help achieve advocates’ long-standing goal of a system that charges low-income residents no more than 1.8% of their average monthly income for water service. City officials say the long-hoped-for plan will help thousands of Detroit residents facing water insecurity and is now possible due to regional, state and federal funding.

“When we announced the extension of the water shutoff moratorium through the end of this year, we committed to working toward solution to permanently end water shutoffs for low-income residents,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “The new Lifeline Plan is a major step toward that goal, and those enrolled will continue to participate in a moratorium. We are calling on all elected officials and community leaders to join us to ensure this new program is funded long-term by the state and federal dollars.”

The plan approved by the Board of Water Commissioners includes a new inclining block rate structure for water usage that provides a lower water rate to all DWSD customers up to 4,500 gallons per month. Income-qualifying households will pay as little as $18 per month total for water, sewerage and drainage costs and no more than $56 per month. Currently, an average Detroit household with three people uses between 2,300 and 3,000 gallons of water per month and pays $81.62 per month for their water, sewerage and drainage.

“For nearly 10 years we have debated with water advocates whether Detroit could implement a true, income-based water affordability plan,” said DWSD Director Gary Brown. “There were many differences of opinion on the subject, and in most cases we agreed on the need but not the path.”

Former Detroit health director and national health advocate Dr. Abdul El-Sayed said, “For too long, low-income Detroiters have lived in fear of having their water shut off because they couldn’t afford it. Solving water shutoffs vexed us when I served the city as health director between 2015 and 2017—but I’m honored to have been able to work with Mayor Duggan, DWSD leadership and the city’s committed water advocates to develop a plan that guarantees an affordable rate for every low-income Detroiter. Losing water access because you can’t afford to pay your water bill should forever and always be a thing of the past. And that’s a testament to people working together. Now we need to do the same to secure funding from regional, state, and federal sources to ensure this program’s future.” 

How the plan works

The DWSD Lifeline Plan provides qualifying Detroiters up to 4,500 gallons of water per month at a fixed rate based on their household income. The plan is divided into a three-tier system based the average monthly household income for that tier, which will determine precisely how much the household will pay if the household stays under the allotted 4,500 gallons of water per month.

The DWSD Lifeline Plan’s three tiers:
  • If you receive SNAP/FAP benefits – You pay $18 a month for water, sewer, and drainage services;
  • If you are a low-income household (non-SNAP/FAP) – You pay $43 a month for your total DWSD bill; or
  • If you are a moderate-income household (non-SNAP/FAP) – You pay $56 a month for your total DWSD bill.

DWSD has based the plan’s tiers from a nationwide study of water affordability spearheaded by the Office of the People’s Counsel (OPC) of the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C.

If water usage exceeds 4,500 gallons per month, the household will be charged for the additional usage based on DWSD’s new inclining block rate structure. For example, under the rates approved today, if the household is enrolled in SNAP and the Lifeline Plan and they use 6,000 gallons of water their bill will then be $38.06 instead of $18. Therefore, there is incentive in monitoring water usage.

Under the DWSD Lifeline Plan, the total water bill will be 1.8% of the average monthly household income for each of the three tiers. This is a standard set by community advocates and water affordability experts. The program is funded by regional, state, and federal dollars including the Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP) and the federal Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP).

When enrolled in the Lifeline Plan or DWSD’s 10/30/50 payment plan, the Detroit household continues to participate in a shutoff moratorium. The moratorium will end for all residential water users on January 1, unless you are low-income and enrolled in a program.

Brown added, “WRAP, a compassionate program and with annual regional funding, helped get us to this point. WRAP funding will support the LIFELINE Plan, along with federal funding from LIHWAP. But WRAP is an assistance program. Whereas the DWSD Lifeline Plan is an affordability program that takes into account a household’s income.”

Who is eligible?

Income-eligible Detroit households include:
  • The 2,500 households currently enrolled in WRAP will be auto-enrolled in the new plan beginning today;
  • The 19,000-plus households who were previously in WRAP can immediately qualify and will be contacted by Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency;
  • Low-income-eligible households; and
  • Households receiving SNAP/FAP benefits.

Qualifying residents can enroll beginning July 1 by calling Wayne Metro to enroll now at 313-386-9727 or apply at

Sixty-Day Community Engagement Effort and Expanded outreach directly targeting eligible residents; DWSD to schedule fairs this summer
We the People of Detroit asked for a 30-45-day public comment period and DWSD is providing up to 60 days of community engagement to solicit feedback for the Board of Water Commissioners consider amendments later this year. DWSD, Wayne Metro and coalition members will host fairs this summer to enroll qualifying households and seek input on the Lifeline Plan that can be taken to the Board of Water Commissioners for future amendments

Director Brown is building an inclusive coalition of community leaders and activists who will directly engage with income-eligible Detroiters to educate them on the Detroit Lifeline Plan and get them enrolled.

In addition to fairs and outreach by coalition members, Detroit-based and minority-owned Human Fliers will canvass neighborhoods over the next several months, going door-to-door to more than 50,000 likely eligible households. This figure is based on Census tracts and DWSD billing data. A preliminary door-to-door effort started in May.

Wayne Metro to invest $50M to prevent household water leaks
If a residential customer’s water usage exceeds 4,500 gallons per month, the water bill will reflect a charge in addition to the capped Lifeline rate. Overage of the 4,500 gallons per month can be caused by issues like faulty plumbing and leaky/running toilets.

After final approval from Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Wayne Metro will invest $10 Million in state funding per year for the next five years to help low-income residential customers repair leaks in their homes and keep their water usage under 4,500 gallons per month to maintain the DWSD Lifeline Rate.

Detroit water customers can monitor their real-time water usage through an existing mobile-friendly DWSD Customer Service Portal at; access to a mobile device and/or Wi-Fi service via a collaboration with Wayne Metro and other partners, and automated calls from the DWSD billing system when their usage nears 3,000 gallons.

Increased water shutoff prevention
No Detroit resident will face a water shutoff if enrolled in the Detroit Lifeline Plan or the 10/30/50 Plan. DWSD will continue working with Wayne Metro and coalition partners to ensure it offers eligible Detroiters the help they need.

For households at-risk of a Detroit water shutoff:
  • Clear notice on DWSD bill;
  • Door hanger notice with information on the DWSD Lifeline Plan;
  • Personal outreach with sign-up at your doorstep; and
  • 90-120 days of outreach effort per customer.

The new inclining block rate effective August 1
DWSD conducted a rate study this year with water and sewer rate expert Stantec. Today, the Board of Water Commissioners approved a new rate structure effective August 1. All Detroit water users will be charged a lower rate for usage at or below 4,500 gallons (6 CCF). The rate is $2.504 per each CCF per month at or below 6 CCF. Above 6 CCF, the uniform rate is $4.492 per CCF per month. There are approximately 748 gallons in each CCF. The sewage rate is $5.40 per CCF for all usage. The drainage rate went up slightly to $678.28 per impervious acreage (hard surface area) from $677 per month.

About the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) delivers clean water and collects sanitary sewage and stormwater from more than 230,000 accounts, representing a residential population of nearly 700,000. DWSD’s water system consists of more than 2,700 miles of water main and 29,000-plus fire hydrants, and the combined sewer collection system has nearly 3,000 miles of sewer piping, more than 90,000 catch basins and 16 green stormwater infrastructure projects within the city of Detroit. Since June 2019, DWSD has committed $100 million per year to begin to address the aging infrastructure, including replacing lead service lines. To learn more about DWSD or to request water services, make payments, apply for affordability programs, or report water or sewer emergencies, call DWSD Customer Service at 313-267-8000, use the Improve Detroit mobile app, or visit