Fix-a-Leak week is drawing to a close, but Michigan's Office of the Clean Water Public Advocate will continue to prioritize water conservation efforts, in particular addressing water leaks, to support affordability and water quality for Michigan residents and community water suppliers.
Through the Focus on Water Initiative, the Office brings together a diverse group of interests to develop a strategy to optimize limited resources for a greater impact in communities. Participants come from a wide range of sectors, including community-based organizations, government organizations, education organizations, water and energy infrastructure organizations, and consulting partners.
Work to assist residents is already underway. In February 2021, the Water Leak Pilot launched in Benton Harbor and Highland Park. The Water Leak Pilot was developed to increase community education about water leaks while also stressing the importance of conducting household water audits and providing tips for energy savings. Two hundred residents in Benton Harbor and Highland Park that participate in the Pilot will receive free premise plumbing repairs with an average value of $800 per home. Through partnerships with state partners, energy providers and private sector partners, additional services will be provided to residents including lead assessment, free WaterSense faucet fixtures and energy efficient water heaters. The University of Michigan and Safe Water Engineering have been contracted to evaluate Phase 1 of the Water Leak Pilot. The evaluation team will examine lessons learned that will help guide deployment of this effort statewide.
As Fix-a-Leak concludes, it is time to reflect on the work needed to ensure that Michigan communities continue to reduce energy and water waste. The common themes of the week are 1) connecting our water and energy conservation efforts for a great impact, and 2) the policies and funding needed to support water leak repairs in disadvantaged communities. We understand that there are health impacts associated with water leaks, and they are also very costly to Michigan residents and communities overall.
Did you know that the energy needed just to pump drinking water is a significant portion of the operating budget for a water system, ranging from 30% to 50%? Water suppliers and customers looking for ways to reduce their energy and water consumption - and to help the state meet its goal of economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2050 - should visit Michigan.gov/FixaLeakWeek and scroll down to Next Steps for Michigan.
The Office of the Clean Water Public Advocate is working with the Dow Sustainability Masters Fellowship program to develop a roadmap to implement water and energy conservation efforts across Michigan through our local partners, with recommendations for policy and resources needed to support this vital work in small and disadvantaged communities.
The Dow Fellows will explore the connection between water and energy conservation and consider how to develop a model for communities that supports best practices and connecting resources to assist disadvantaged communities. This project will have a water quality lens that incorporates energy conservation.
Stay connected to this work by signing up for the Office of the Clean Water Public Advocate Listserv. There will be opportunities for engagement of stakeholders throughout the process.