Detroit and the suburbs have common ground on operation of water and sewerage system

September 25, 2007

DEARBORN / Sept. 26, 2007---Southeast Michigan voters are ready, willing, able and waiting for a solution to the long-standing dispute over management of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD).

A recent survey of registered voters in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties revealed 73 percent of the electorate believed the decision as to who manages the DWSD was “very important” to the region - more important than the other top regional issues tested – Cobo Hall expansion and improving mass transit.

The telephone survey, funded with private resources and conducted by iLabs, the Center for Innovation Research at the University of Michigan-Dearborn School of Management, included 600 respondents from the City of Detroit and 600 respondents from Oakland, Macomb and out-county Wayne (excluding the City of Detroit) for a total sample size of 1,200. The margin of error for the total sample was 2.8 percent, and 4 percent for each of the two sub-samples. The survey was in the field from June 18 to June 21.

The above question was worded as follows:

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being not very important and 10 being very important, how would you rate deciding who controls the water and sewage system as a priority for Metro Detroit?”  The question was worded similarly for mass transit and Cobo Hall expansion.

The results were as follows:


Cobo Expansion

Mass Transit

DWSD Resolution

1 – 3

29.9 %

11.8 %

10.5 %

4 – 6

33.4 %

18.6 %

16.4 %

7 – 10

36.7 %

69.6 %

73.1 %

“Of these three important issues to southeast Michigan, voters ranked resolving the DWSD dispute as their top priority,” said UM-Dearborn Prof. Kim Schatzel, director of iLabs.

“In addition, 91.8 percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement, ‘The City of Detroit and the suburbs need to work together to resolve the current issues regarding the water and sewerage system,’” added Schatzel.  “Moreover, the region’s voters have a sense of urgency about getting this resolved--65 percent agree there will be significant problems in the near future if this dispute is not resolved.  That’s a significant finding.  Voters clearly feel that the issue is important and that the region’s political leadership should resolve it soon.”

Voters are also willing to compromise.  “Most Southeast Michigan voters want a fair solution to the DWSD issue--as evidenced by the fact that 57 percent of Detroiters support suburban representation on the board, while 79 percent of suburban voters believe that some payment to the city is fair in exchange for representation,” added Kelly Rossman-McKinney, CEO of The Rossman Group, a Lansing-based strategic communications firm retained to work with the Business Leadership Group to educate the public about this issue.  “The numbers indicated that voters hear the political rhetoric from our elected officials on all sides of the DWSD issue, and they want an end to the arguing and grandstanding.  They want the issue resolved so that the region can move forward."



Contact: Kelly Rossman-McKinney