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Michigan’s Drinking Water Asset Management Grant program pays dividends for cities, towns, villages

“Updating plans” may not sound like a headline making task, particularly when it comes to protecting Michiganders from harmful contaminants in drinking water. But when it comes to getting hazardous lead drinking water services lines out of the ground, identifying the location and condition of these aging lead lines is an essential step in digging them out and replacing them with safe materials.

Since 2021, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has provided 168 communities with financial assistance in doing this critical “planning” work as a prelude to replacing the lines. Some of that financial assistance has supported physical verification of what materials are already in the ground.

Map of the state of Michigan showing locations of EGLE's Drinking Water Asset Management grants.

Map of the State of Michigan showing locations of EGLE's Drinking Water Asset Management grants.


The Drinking Water Asset Management (DWAM) Grant was developed by EGLE’s Water Infrastructure Funding and Financing Section to assist water supplies in Asset Management Plan (AMP) development or updates, and/or Distribution System Materials Inventory (DSMI) as defined in Michigan's Lead and Copper Rule. $36.5 million in funding was initially available under the MI Clean Water Plan in 2019, with a maximum grant award per applicant of $1 million. EGLE received 304 applications totaling well over the amount of funds available. Applications were prioritized based on scoring criteria outlined in the application and guidance materials, with priority given to water supplies with a lead or copper Action Level Exceedance (ALE), and to systems with a high percentage of unknown service lines as indicated in their Preliminary DSMIs. $15 million of the funding was designated for small systems serving a population of not more than 10,000.

As of February 23, 2023, all $36.5 million originally available under the MI Clean Water Plan was granted. These funds were awarded to 108 communities. Seventy-three of the communities awarded original funds serve populations of less than 10,000, for a total of more than $21 million.

In 2022, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) allocated an additional $20 million to the DWAM program. From the ARP monies, $5 million was required to be awarded to small systems. EGLE has continued to utilize the existing priority list from the original application period. As of July 6, 2023, all $20 million of the additional funds allocated from ARP have been awarded. The ARP funds were awarded to 60 communities. Forty-six of which serve populations of less than 10,000, totaling over $13 million.

Michigan communities are utilizing this funding to update their AMP (including asset inventory and condition assessment, level of service, criticality assessment, revenue structure development, and capital improvement planning), to conduct potholing, hydrovacing, and/or trenching for DSMI and planning purposes, to purchase equipment related to AMP and/or DSMI activities (such as computer hardware or software for asset management or materials assessment), and to develop public education efforts related to Lead and Copper Rule implementation.

EGLE’s mission is to protect Michigan’s environment and public health by managing air, water, land, and energy resources. One of the many ways EGLE protects public health is through the regulation of drinking water contaminants, such as lead and copper. Drinking water is one potential source of exposure to these metals due to the use of these materials in drinking water distribution systems. Michigan’s Lead and Copper Rule was established to regulate lead and copper levels and protect public health by reducing water corrosivity.

The grants have been awarded to communities large and small, urban and rural, from the shores of Lake Superior to the Ohio border. Examples of the work include cities like Ironwood and Mt. Morris, who expressed gratitude for the opportunities provided for their communities by the DWAM grant.

The City of Ironwood, located in Gogebic County, was awarded $214,913 in 2021, and as of 2023 all funds have been expended. Paul Anderson, City Manager and City Engineer, stated “The project was a HUGE success in helping us bring down the number of unknown water service material types.” Bob Tervonen, City Utilities Manager, added “At one time the City of Ironwood had 1,600 unknown water lines for private services out of 3,000 lines. With the project, we were able to inspect 342 private lines, on all sides. With the momentum of the inspections, the City of Ironwood was very aggressive contacting other private individuals with private inspections. As of today, the City of Ironwood has 28 remaining private service line inspections that need to be completed.”

The City of Mount Morris, located in Genesee County, was awarded $32,170 in 2021, and as of 2023 all funds have been expended. Paul Zumbach, Department of Public Works Superintendent, stated “I cannot express enough gratitude on the behalf of the staff and citizens of Mount Morris for all your help with the DSMI grant.” The City of Mount Morris utilized this funding to investigate service line materials at 3 schools, 227 randomly selected sites, 573 high probability sites, and 10 main line locations.