Archived News Release: November 7, 2022 - The City of Ann Arbor's
Water Treatment Plant Facility Plan efforts continue. In the scope of this project, the city is conducting an evaluation of alternatives to identify the preferred approach to meet the drinking water needs of the community well into the future, as well as constructing a pilot plant to test recommended technologies. During the past few months, project planning efforts have included the following:
Strategic planning and treatment alternative investigations are well underway. Construction will begin on a
pilot plant in the coming months.
The city is committed to meaningful and accessible community engagement throughout this project, which include:
Community events, listening sessions, surveys, and targeted outreach to major stakeholders and historically underrepresented people.
Public information provided throughout the project including a monthly news release, short videos,
website updates and more. General information and news from the Water Treatment Plant can be found at
Consistent, community-informed, analytical feedback from HRG to the project team on all project activities and deliverables, culminating in a comprehensive community engagement report at the project close.
The city has contracted with the
Huron River Group (HRG), a local woman-owned firm, to conduct community engagement for this project. With the help of the Water Treatment Plant (WTP) and the AECOM project team, HRG has developed a detailed plan for engagement known as the Community Engagement Action Plan (CEAP). The CEAP is designed to plan comprehensive engagement efforts throughout the project, including identifying and connecting with key stakeholders. The goal is to incorporate community voices and priorities into the final project recommendations for City Council consideration.
“The city is committed to engaging diverse voices through an approachable and welcoming process," said Glen Wiczorek, Project Manager for the Water Treatment Plant Facility Plan. “Public information for this project will illustrate what is happening with drinking water treatment and why, and how these changes may affect people in the future. The city is providing information not only to inform the public about the project, but also to deepen community members' understanding of Ann Arbor's drinking water system.''
Community stakeholders are encouraged to join in the process as the project team develops its recommendations. Members of the city's
Equitable Engagement Steering Committee (EESC) have joined the WTP Strategic Planning Steering Committee to help inform community perspectives and interests. They will serve as a connection to local organizations and community centers, such as Food Gatherers, Bryant Community Center, and the Neutral Zone, as well as key leaders from historically underrepresented communities."
HRG will continue to work with the EESC and community groups to create engagement sessions with community members that include tours to the existing water treatment plant. The priority is to engage in ways that are comfortable and convenient for community members. If you would like the project team to attend an event or meeting, please email [email protected].
Project team members not only want to answer questions through public information, but also provide resources to answer questions at local events. Team members attended the Mayor's Green Fair, the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market in October, and will attend additional events throughout the life of the project. HRG has conducted focus groups with multiple groups, such as home brewers and medical providers, with more to come. A town hall event also will be scheduled later in the planning process.
What project decisions are influenced by the community?
Project activities are continuously monitored to identify policy decisions that should be influenced by public priorities. For example, the project team is using weighted criteria to select the preferred treatment technology. The criteria include environmental, technical, and social factors, weighed against fiscal impacts to create a bottom-line score. The
survey asks the public to prioritize these environmental, technical, social, and cost factors, to weight the criteria and inform the recommended technology.
Water rates in Ann Arbor were increased in 2015 to support the cost of this improvement project; whether additional rate increases might be recommended is yet to be determined based on the team's analysis. HRG believes it is important to speak to community organizations that research and advocate for low-income and historically underrepresented groups, instead of solely attempting to connect to these community members themselves. Organizations are able to frame issues with a broader, system-wide lens, leading to policy recommendations that address equity and access issues.
For example, HRG met with the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC), which is an organization that advocates for the health of the Huron River. The HRWC recommended that the strategic planning team use “Water is a Right" as one of its guiding principles. Additionally, HRG met with researchers from the University of Michigan, who developed a
report on the water affordability crisis to understand the impact of rate hikes on low-income people. The UM research team reports that addressing drinking water affordability can be challenging because water bills are often paid by the property owner, who passes along the cost to renters. As a result, low-income tenants may not benefit from programs designed to ensure drinking water affordability. The 2021 U.S. Census reports that in Ann Arbor, more than 23% of residents are in the low-income category, and 55% of housing units are rental. The UM researchers recommended models for innovative programs around utility affordability. Information and recommendations from this meeting were provided to the WTP team. The strategic planning guiding principles reflect the recommendations of relevant local organizations, and the project team is collecting community feedback via an online
How can I follow project updates?
Our recommended first step is completing a
survey by November 30. Then, subscribe to the WTP's monthly
Ann Arbor Water newsletter. Finally, we recommend monitoring the
project website to follow project updates and discover ways to engage with the project team.
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