The Michigan Center for Freshwater Innovation (MCFI), a collaboration between the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University and a number of regional stakeholders, assisted the State of Michigan's office of the Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to develop an action plan to promote regional planning to ensure that the state's infrastructure investments are equitable and result in high-quality drinking water at the lowest cost.
Glen T. Daigger, PhD, MSCE, PE
On November 4th, 2021, Michigan Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order 2021-9, Safe Drinking Water. In this order, the Governor directed the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to undertake a comprehensive review of the state's role in its drinking water systems. This review focuses on prevention and response when water quality issues arise. Moreover, the review is to result in action by providing recommendations to “ensure every parent can hand their child a glass of water with confidence.” EGLE and MDHHS were tasked with completing this review no later than December 31, 2022, and were directed to jointly provide status updates at least once every three months until the review is complete. Within Executive Order 2021-9, the Governor outlined six specific Directives. Directive 6 states:
"Regional planning. EGLE must develop a proposal that promotes regional planning to ensure the state's infrastructure investments are equitable and result in high-quality drinking water at the lowest cost. This proposal should explore opportunities for shared services and identify incentives for action and roadblocks that deter the ability of public water supplies to provide water to residents outside a supply's current service area but whose current source of water is compromised, threatened, or unsustainable."
The Michigan Center for Freshwater Innovation (MCFI), a collaboration between the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University and a number of regional stakeholders, was contracted to assist the State of Michigan's office of the Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) with Directive 6 under this order to develop an action plan to promote regional planning to ensure that the state's infrastructure investments are equitable and result in high-quality drinking water at the lowest cost.
Michigan community water systems face a number of challenges, and regional planning and collaboration can assist them to improve performance. Some of the principal challenges include affordability, aging infrastructure, increasing water shortages, environmental justice, workforce issues, emerging contaminants such as PFAS, and harmful algal blooms.
Systems using groundwater supplies may benefit the most from regional planning. Of the total of 1,400 community water supplies, 1,341 rely on groundwater which serve 45 percent of the population served by community systems. The other 55 percent of the Michigan public is served by 59 community surface water supplies (systems); 53 supply Great Lakes water, and only six use inland surface water. Analysis performed as part of this study indicates that systems using groundwater may be subject to the greatest threats to service provision. The state’s 9,500 noncommunity water systems serving schools, restaurants, motels, campgrounds, and churches also predominantly use groundwater and can benefit from regional planning.
The benefits of and barriers to regional planning and collaboration are well known. These are well-known from the literature and were well-reinforced through the interviews and roundtables conducted as part of this study. Benefits include improved service delivery, reduced cost through utilization of economies of scale, and greater anticipation and planning for evolving situations such as population growth and decline. Barriers can generally be categorized as feasibility, resource, willingness, and knowledge issues.
While barriers exist to regional planning and collaboration, approaches to encourage and accelerate such collaboration are available. These are well-known from the literature and are applicable to Michigan. In fact, several successful examples within the State of Michigan were identified through the course of the interviews and roundtables.
Successful collaborations require investments to seed and promote working relationships. Outcomes from the interviews and roundtables emphasized that partnerships are built over time, that multiple relationships between individuals within each collaborating organization are necessary, and that strong leadership can both accelerate and sustain partnerships. An “honest broker” may be needed in some instances to initiate and develop effective collaborations.
The existing regional planning councils provide a framework for regional water service delivery planning and implementation. Michigan is divided into fourteen planning and development regions, each having a regional council. These voluntary sub-state units have a potential role to play in water resource planning and management at the regional level. Their environment planning tasks already have some water components. For example, all regional councils in Michigan are designated as areawide water planning and management agencies by the state under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Many regional councils either lead or participate in watershed management planning groups. While watershed management is focused on the Clean Water Act, there may be potential to tie their activities to the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) also supports a task force on water infrastructure. These should include and develop relationships with the County Health units, particularly when dealing with the 2.5% of the CWS that have a health MCL or treatment technology violation or PFAS contamination.
A wide range of regional collaboration models are available. A summary of relevant options, along with implementation considerations, cost and efficiency considerations, and system outcomes were provided in final report.
A series of recommendations included in this study will be released in early 2023
State of Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy
A grassroots train-the-trainer program on how to install, operate and maintain faucet-mounted point-of-use filters to protect for lead in drinking water.Learn More
The goal of this project is to explore seamless and independent mobility for people with physical disabilities.Learn More
The Urban Collaboratory is working with the USEPA and the Great Lakes Water Authority to remediate and restore the Rouge River.Learn More
The MCFI will leverage research in water technology and work with stakeholders to translate research into practice, stimulate business growth and job creation.Learn More
Robots are anticipated to make the global construction industry safer and more attractive to workers, easing a worker shortage in the United States.Learn More
While parks are designed and managed to generate community benefits, there remains a need for tools that can more rigorously measure how communities use parks.Learn More
The city of Benton Harbor wishes to transform Ox Creek into a residential, recreational and commercial centerpiece linking important segments of the community.Learn More
The goal of this project is to develop a data-driven asset management framework that quantifies risk in the water distribution network for southeast Michigan.Learn More
The University of Michigan is developing a structural reliability framework to quantify the probability of failure of pipe segments throughout the GLWA system.Learn More
A PFAS treatment approach for groundwater using low-temperature plasma with a concentration phaseLearn More
The Great Lakes Water Authority is looking for ways to rehabilitate large diameter water mains without actually having to dig up city streets.Learn More
Mapping detailed geographies of digital access and exclusion across Detroit’s neighborhoods.Learn More
A major source of bridge deterioration requiring constant maintenance is mechanical expansion joints installed between adjacent simple span bridge decks.Learn More
The project aims to reduce energy use of vehicular travels by incentivizing individual travelers to adjust travel choices and driving behaviors.Learn More
The Sensors in a Shoebox project focuses on empowering Detroit youth as agents of change for their city.Learn More
Using wireless sensors to monitor water quality and flow conditions and to control drains to Ox Creek in Benton Harbor.Learn More
Application of real-time sensing and dynamic control on existing wastewater infrastructure to reduce the frequency and volume of Combined Sewer Overflows.Learn More
Structural monitoring of highway retaining walls using remote sensing techniques to assess performance and prioritize infrastructure investments.Learn More
Using remote sensing and security camera data to better understand how people are using the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy public spaces.Learn More
Using big data, data mining, and artificial intelligence to improve performance of the highly advanced Grand Rapids Water Resource Recovery Facilities.Learn More
Rethinking how transit infrastructure can expand access to food, health, learning, and mobility services by creating multimodal hubs.Learn More
Limiting the volume of stormwater in the Detroit system to prevent untreated sewage from being released into the Detroit and Rouge Rivers.Learn More
The first in a series of health clinic prototypes that bring technology-enabled chronic health care monitoring to remote, underserved global populations.Learn More
Improving Benton Harbor’s aging water system using risk assessment and risk analysis techniques, as well as mobile sensors.Learn More
Collecting travel data to help Benton Harbor improve travel options for residents, with the goal of increased employment participation and retention.Learn More
Investigating the use of cutting-edge molecular tools that characterize and optimize water quality process performance.Learn More
Using wearable-based technology to help seniors stay mobile and age in place, while avoiding exposure to falls and environmental risks or hazards.Learn More
Optimizing phosphorus removal at Detroit’s water treatment facility, to keep it out of lakes and rivers.Learn More
Using autonomous sensors and valves to create “smart” stormwater systems to reduce flooding forecasting, and improve water quality.Learn More
Professor, Environmental and Water Resources
Dr. Daigger is currently Professor of Engineering Practice at the University of Michigan and President and Founder of One Water Solutions, LLC, a water engineering and innovation firm. He previously served as Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for CH2M HILL where he was employed for 35 years, as well as Professor and Chair of Environmental Systems Engineering at Clemson University. Actively engaged in the water profession through major projects, and as author or co-author of more than 100 technical papers, four books, and several technical manuals, he contributes to significantly advance practice within the water profession. He has advised many of the major cites of the world, including New York, Los Angles, San Francisco, Singapore, Hong Kong, Istanbul, and Beijing, and is currently a member of the Asian Development Bank Water Advisory Group. Deeply involved in professional activities, he is currently co-Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Water Environment and Reuse Foundation (WE&RF), and a Past President of the International Water Association (IWA). The recipient of numerous awards, including the Kappe, Freese, and Feng lectures and the Harrison Prescott Eddy, Morgan, and the Gascoigne Awards, he is a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), a Distinguished Fellow of IWA, and a Fellow of the Water Environment Federation (WEF). A member of a number of professional societies, Dr. Daigger is also a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineers.
+ Optimizing Phosphorus Removal at Detroit’s Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF)
+ Protecting Public Health with Improved Water Service
+ Use of Artificial Intelligence in Water Resource Recovery Facilities (WRRF)
Mr. Wolf serves as Managing Director of the University of Michigan’s Urban Collaboratory working to connect University of Michigan “smart city” research, community needs and funding opportunities to deploy impactful projects addressing targeted challenges that improve the livability of communities. Mr. Wolf brings a wealth of experience to the Collaboratory and has served in a number of senior management positions at large multinational consulting firms. In that capacity, he has directed a wide variety of technical disciplines, projects and programs providing consulting services to governments, corporations, foundations, institutions and non-profits at locations globally. Mr. Wolf is a Professional Engineer licensed in several states, and holds a BS in Civil Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from the University of Missouri at St. Louis.
+ State of Michigan Water Infrastructure Regional Planning
+ Great Lakes Legacy Act (GLLA) Restoration of the Rouge River
Associate Professor of Environment and Sustainability
Associate Professor Hughes studies policy agendas, policy analysis, and governance processes, focusing on decisions about water resources and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Current projects examine the political and institutional dimensions of equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water in the U.S.; the role of municipal finances in drinking water management and investments; and urban climate change governance, including equitable approaches to building urban climate resilience.
Graham Sustainability Institute Water Center Director
As Director of the Water Center, Jen provides intellectual and programmatic leadership to foster collaborative research that informs the policy and management decisions affecting our nation’s Great Lakes and coastal estuarine waters. She networks with regional partners from the public, private, and non-governmental sectors helping identify and elevate their water-related priorities. Then she works with faculty and students to develop multi-sector, multidisciplinary teams that address the cross-sector water resource priorities our partners have identified. Jen also oversees staff implementing the National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s Science Collaborative program: including development of requests for proposals; design and conduct of technical/peer and practitioner review; and providing capacity and other support for project teams implementing collaborative science projects.
Jen has more than 20 years’ experience developing and implementing user-focused programs in the bi-national Great Lakes region. She has held positions at the Great Lakes Commission, the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor (GLIER), and as Assistant Director and Research Coordinator of Michigan Sea Grant. From 2008-14 Jen served as Executive Director of the bi-national Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS), a regional node of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System.