MPPS Policy Paper: Drinking Water Infrastructure

Friday, March 1, 2019


Caleb Hogeterp


Michigan has access to some of the largest bodies of freshwater in the world, and is surrounded by more than one-fifth of the world’s surface fresh water (US EPA, 2015). However, the quality of its constituents’ drinking water contradicts this sort of access. The state of Michigan’s current condition of drinking water infrastructure is lacking: as of the 2018 Report Card for Michigan’s Infrastructure by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Michigan was given a ‘D’ for drinking water infrastructure, signifying that their system is passable, yet currently suffers from multiple issues (American Society of Civil Engineers, 2018). These issues vary from contamination, such as prevalence of lead and other chemicals harmful to human health, to scarcity concerns and current infrastructure systems not meeting the needs of those who depend on them. Michigan’s drinking water systems need intense development and policy changes to adequately distribute safe drinking water.

While these changes are needed, often in the form of funding, this sort of investment can often struggle to come to fruition due to the large amount of funding needed to completely fix this deficiency. As of 2016, there was an estimated $800 million per year gap between funding and need for Michigan’s infrastructure systems (ASCE, 2018). On the other hand, there are multiple possible reforms that would safeguard the health of Michigan’s people more quickly and at a lower cost. While the first policy recommendation, increasing funding through the usage of bonds, would be the optimal solution to these problems, this paper will describe two additional policy proposals to cover current gaps in Michigan’s water infrastructure and promote public health.

  • Increased surveillance over and monitoring frequency of the state’s drinking water systems, especially in the case on non-community and private water systems, which serve almost 25 percent of the state’s population. This information should also be made easily accessible for the public.
  • Policy inducing the review and updating of current drinking water standards given out by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to align with or exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory levels of chemicals harmful to human health. Residents in areas with violations should additionally be notified, and an online database of regulations shall be enacted.

While neither of these will eliminate the root cause of many of these issues, they will help to both increase community awareness about the safety of their drinking water supplies and implement higher regulatory standards for distributed water.