Water and sewer systems are extremely complex and cover extraordinary distances. Would you believe the water we use and consume in Auburn hills mostly comes from Port Huron, which is 60-70 miles from here? Would you believe the water that goes down the drain ends up in downtown Detroit? These large spanning systems are owned and operated by several users along the way. Although most people realize that water and sewer systems need maintenance, some people do not realize the who, what, where, why and how of the process. The bottom line is that water and sewer systems are a shared responsibility across the region.
Water starts with our supplier, Great Lakes Water Authority, who draws the water from the lakes and rivers. The water is then treated and pumped through large distribution mains to each City. Once the City receives the water, it is then transferred through smaller water mains until it arrives at the business or residential service line. From there it enters the building through privately owned service lines and is used or consumed. The diagram below shows the approximate delineation between the public and private water lines.
The sewer system works very similarly, just in reverse order. Sewage originates from a business or home and travels through private sewer lines. Those private lines carry the sewage out to the yard or street where the City sewer main resides. After it dumps into the larger City sewer main, it is the City’s responsibility to make sure it keeps flowing through the pipes till it exits the City. Most of the time gravity takes care of this task, but sometimes pumps are needed to aide in moving the sewage from low-lying areas. As the sewage exits the City, the responsibility is transferred over to Oakland County and eventually back to the Great Lakes Water Authority. The diagram below shows where local sewer ownership changes, which is a little different than the water line.
As you can see, there are several owner/operators of these systems along the way. All of these organizations and private owners need to do their part in maintaining healthy water and sewer systems. If one entity fails, service interruptions could impact many customers and businesses, either down or up the line!
Jason Deman, Manager of Public Utilities