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Water Treatment Plant Facility Project Update

Archived News Release: May 1, 2023 -

The City of Ann Arbor is creating a plan for rehabilitating the Drinking Water Treatment Plant (WTP). The purpose of this project is to evaluate the WTP's operational, maintenance, and regulatory needs now and into the future. For more information about this project, visit the project website.

In the spirit of Earth Day, we wanted to share how the WTP is looking at ways to prioritize environmental stewardship in the development of the facility plan that guides the development of the WTP site, and how Ann Arbor's water customers can use water in the most sustainable way.

What are some examples of how environmental sustainability is considered in this project?

  • The Ann Arbor WTP is exploring a potential change in the softening technology used to removed hardness from the source water.
    • As a part of the Project's Alternatives Analysis, the technical team is exploring changing the current softening process to one that could potentially be more environmentally sustainable. The current softening process uses Quicklime, or calcium oxide, as the main softening chemical. The analysis considers using caustic soda, or sodium hydroxide, with lime and which would have the combined effect of reducing the amount of “sludge" produced during softening. This would be environmentally beneficial because it would reduce energy consumption for sludge processing, reduce truck traffic to haul sludge away from the plant, and reduce waste ultimately disposed to a landfill.
  • This project will provide necessary, up-to-date infrastructure that runs efficiently, while reusing existing infrastructure where it makes sense to do so without compromising performance or water quality.
    • The existing water source has served the city for more than 100 years and is expected to continue serving the city for many more years to come. The pipes used to bring the source water to the treatment plant and the pipes used to distribute water across the water system will be maintained.
    • Instead of outright replacing a treatment unit, opportunities to rehabilitate or modify existing concrete tanks are prioritized. For example, modifications to upgrade the existing filters to continue to remove emerging contaminants are being considered.

How is the Water Treatment Plant working in tandem with the city's A2ZERO initiative?

WTP staff have been working closely with the city's Sustainability Office to identify ways for the plant in general, and the WTP Facility Project more specifically, to contribute to the goals set out in the city's A2ZERO plan. Many of these conversations are in their preliminary phases, but some examples include:

  • Installing renewable energy sources at the WTP, including solar panels.
  • Continually analyzing different systems and avenues for the WTP to reach carbon neutrality.

WTP leadership is also analyzing and understanding the impact climate-based migration could have on operations. Climate migration is a concept that suggests people will move from dryer, hotter areas of the country to places with a more reliable water supply, if climate change causes unmanageable water scarcity. The Great Lakes region is a potential destination for climate migration. The WTP is creating demand projections with this in mind, to be able to continue providing clean and abundant water, even in the event of an increase in the local population.

What can Ann Arbor's water customers do to conserve water?

  • Drink tap water instead of bottled water.
    • Ann Arbor's water is tested more than 175,000 times each year to make sure it meets public health standards. Bottled water is no safer than Ann Arbor's tap water, and can cost 1000x more than tap water.
    • Ann Arbor's water is locally sourced, and has minimal environmental impact compared to bottled water. Bottled water in the United States alone requires 17.6 million barrels of oil per year (the equivalent of 2,200 full oil trucks) and uses 2.7 million tons of plastic per year globally (the same weight as 90,000 herds of elephants).
  • Shorten your shower time.
    •  Each additional minute in the shower uses about 2.5 gallons of water. Shortening the length of your shower could save thousands of gallons of water each year.
  • Wait to run the laundry machine and dishwasher until you have a full load.
    • Laundry machines and dishwashers are very water intensive. Running one full load instead of two half loads would save an average of 10 gallons of water each time.
  • Garden sustainably.
    • Using a water barrel reduces stormwater, reduces demand for treated water, and helps your garden thrive.
    • Choosing drought-resistant plants, especially native plants, can reduce your need to water. Watering with a typical sprinkler using a 5.8-inch garden hose for just one hour uses 1,020 gallons (about 3861.12 L) of water!​​

Ann Arbor has 123,851 residents, spans 28.97 square miles and is frequently recognized as a foremost place to live, learn, work, thrive and visit. To keep up with City of Ann Arbor information, subscribe for email updates, and follow the city on Twitter and Facebook. The city's mission is to deliver exceptional services that sustain and enhance a vibrant, safe and diverse community.