Many of Prein&Newhof’s professionals have been looking inside buried sewer pipes—hundreds of miles of them. It’s not glamourous, but this is how we help communities manage their systems more cost–effectively. Using Stormwater and Wastewater (SAW) Grants from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) since 2013, P&N has inspected and rated the condition of about 8 million feet, or 1500 miles, of sanitary sewer pipes in Michigan communities ranging in population from 2,000 to 40,000 people. If it were necessary, the estimated total replacement value of these buried pipes would be $1.92 billion.
What is SAW?
Sonya Butler, a supervisor at MDEQ and SAW Program Manager, is in charge of administering the SAW program for over 470 communities throughout the state. “In 2013, the State of Michigan allocated $450,000,000 to help communities evaluate their stormwater and wastewater (SAW) systems. SAW Grants of up to $2,000,000 per community were available, and hundreds of cities, villages, townships, and municipal organizations across Michigan are using SAW money to set up infrastructure asset management plans and to develop project plans, designs, and innovative projects. One benefit of an asset management plan is to ensure that the user rates charged are sufficient to operate and maintain the stormwater and wastewater systems,” Butler explains.
Our Findings So Far
Prein&Newhof is helping dozens of communities develop asset management plans through the SAW program. P&N SAW Program Manager Brian Vilmont notes, “We are wrapping up our analysis of the inspection data on over 1,500 miles of sewer pipes from several communities that received the first rounds of SAW Grants in 2014. The results were encouraging. Over 50% of the sanitary pipes inspected are in good condition, and less than 5% need immediate attention. However, conditions are always changing and we need to plan for future replacements.”
“Kudos to the leadership and public works staff of these communities for keeping their buried assets in good shape,” Vilmont continued, “While they need to fix a small percentage of their pipes, the asset management plans developed through the SAW program will help them make better long-term decisions and manage their rates.”
Among the first group of communities that Prein&Newhof analyzed, the total cost to fix the poor and failing pipes is estimated at $96 million over the next ten years. To make the repairs, households in these communities will need to pay, on average, approximately $5–15 more per month on their sewer bills. P&N will continue to update these numbers as it accumulates data from additional SAW Grant recipients.
*Graph: The percentages of sanitary sewer pipes that fall under each condition rating for Prein&Newhof’s SAW Round 1 grant recipients.