Archived News Release: March 27, 2023 - The Ann Arbor Water Treatment Plant Facility Plan to improve drinking water treatment systems began in mid-2022. The project includes a strategic plan, a study to choose the best technology, and pilot testing of the new technology, with community engagement throughout. Engagement is designed to make sure that the plan's priorities and decisions reflect community priorities, because Ann Arbor residents will be the ones who enjoy and support the plan in the future.
The project's community engagement included an online Citywide survey designed to help shape the strategic plan and technology selection. This survey was also distributed in-person at events throughout the City, where team members talked with the public about the project and heard first-hand public priorities. The results of this survey – and how it impacted the study – are described here.
For further background about any of these project parts, visit the project website.
The City is committed to incorporating community voices and priorities into the final project recommendations to City Council. A Citywide survey on community priorities is a tool the WTP project team used to accomplish this goal. We identified two opportunities for the public to influence project decisions.
First, the Strategic Plan includes guiding principles, derived from the City's overall mission, vision and goals. The Strategic Planning Team, which includes customers/ratepayers, environmental advocates, and a representative of historically underrepresented communities, validated these principles; the project team wanted to confirm that the community as a whole endorses the guiding principles as well.
Second, the Technical Analysis team is deciding on the best water treatment technology, using social, environmental, quality, and cost factors. Each factor is weighted to reflect its importance. We wanted the community's help in assigning these weights.
The Citywide survey therefore included two core questions. The first asked respondents to organize the guiding principles in priority order, and to write in any missing criteria. The second asked respondents to weight the social, environmental, and quality criteria. The survey resulted in these important findings:
- Reliable and safe drinking water are top priority for the community, consistent with the project team's priorities
- The project's guiding principles are all important, and they are complete. For more information, visit the project's strategic planning website.
- The community believes that having access to drinking water, regardless of ability to pay, is important. The community believes that having consistent water supply is critical
Many respondents wrote in suggestions. Most of these suggestions fell into two categories. Respondents want the City to know that removing contaminants (like PFAS and 1,4-dioxane) is of critical importance. Members of the public should know that the WTP currently has the technology to remove PFAS and other chemicals from Ann Arbor's drinking water. Our award-winning drinking water is free from these contaminants.
And, respondents encouraged the City and WTP to communicate regularly about the project and drinking water in general. The WTP will continue its community engagement efforts for this project and for all its activities. You can meet our team in person at these upcoming events: Dance for Mother Earth, Earth Day, and the Water Treatment Plant Open House on May 6. We'll also be at several food distribution events in April.
Implications for the Project
The survey findings have implications for the Strategic Plan and for choosing the right technology. The project team will recommend action steps for the strategic plan that reflect public priorities based on the survey results. With respect to choosing the best technology, the survey results affirmed the project team's recommendation to pre-screen technologies and exclude those that fail to meet the City's minimum standards for safe drinking water. The City's standards are more strict than State and Federal regulatory requirements. Selection criteria for the technology that makes the cut will be weighted to reflect public priorities. This includes: ensure reliability; aligning with the City's A2Zero carbon neutral goals; and building in flexibility to handle a wider range of water quality conditions, including increasing the proportion of well water.
Hearing diverse voices through an approachable and welcoming process is an important component of the project's community engagement. Although online surveys can reach broad audiences, they require technology, time, and interest to complete. To make sure we captured diverse voices in our survey responses, project team members met people where they are, using events throughout the city, including the Mayor's Green Fair, the Farmers Market, and food distribution events. We brought mobile devices and helped community members complete the survey in real time. These efforts resulted in one of the City's most diverse surveys to date. Part of the project team's charge is to provide recommendations on community engagement for the future, and the team plans to recommend continued attendance at community events to increase equitable engagement in surveys.
We continue to seek out diverse voices through our other project activities. We'll keep meeting people where they are by attending community events. We'll also share information through social media, press releases, the Ann Arbor Water newsletter, and the project and WTP web site. We'll present about the project at public meetings. And we'll invite members of the public to the WTP for tours and open houses.
Current Survey: Test Your Knowledge
Interested in testing your knowledge about drinking water treatment in the City of Ann Arbor? Our current Citywide survey quizzes residents on the basics and shares the correct answers, so we hope you will learn something too. We'll use the results to improve our future communications, helping us provide more useful tours, articles, and notices. This upcoming quiz will be fun and accessible to everyone, even those who aren't already in the know. The quiz will be open until May 5, 2023. You can find the link on the project website.