From the Top
At PSC, we believe all people, no exceptions, deserve equal access to clean, safe, and affordable water. Since our start in 1989, we’ve made water a priority policy focus, and we’ve very intentionally booked the time to continue this work into the future. We’ve seen Michigan’s water infrastructure struggle and collapse, we’ve witnessed the dangerous and heartbreaking reality of unaffordable water bills, and we’ve labored to bring awareness about the fragility of our most abundant natural resource. Through it all, we’ve also experienced and supported the fierce dedication of our state’s water guardians—from the local level to international partnerships—who work together to make sure that everyone has clean, safe water and systems that can secure this right for generations to come.
The Cast and Crew
It’s difficult to count just how many water champions in the state we’ve worked with over the 40+ years we’ve been in business, but our recent client and project list looks something like this:
At the Local Level . . .
We’re working with the Mid-Michigan District Health Department to help protect the Bad, Flat, Looking Glass, Maple, and Pine River watersheds from leaking septic systems. Another part of our work is focused on informing citizens about the environmental and health risks caused by failed systems that discharge water polluted with human pathogens into surrounding waterbodies. These watersheds cover hefty portions of Clinton, Gratiot, and Montcalm Counties, where thousands of Michigan residents rely on access to clean, safe water to live, work, and play.
Many times in rural communities, the water pollution from failed septic systems can be a localized problem. But what happens when harmful pathogens make it on or into our bodies and we don’t have access to clean water flowing in our homes? PSC is identifying barriers to address the water affordability crisis round the clock. These barriers have been exacerbated by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We work with local entities to understand how to balance the upkeep demands of aging water infrastructure with keeping water utility bills affordable. And when these bills increase beyond what communities can handle, we’re also there helping organizations figure out how to best assist millions of people with affordability and conservation plans.
On the State Side . . .
The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) provides nearly 40 percent of Michiganders with their water services—that’s 3.8 million residents across eight counties. In the past, we’ve worked with GLWA to evaluate their Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP), helping them to understand how well they met their goals to assist qualified households with bill payment assistance, arrearage forgiveness, conservation measures, and educational and wraparound services. This work continues as we partner with GLWA to implement the findings of the evaluation, revamping WRAP’s delivery and outcomes.
It’s obvious our water work isn’t solely about preserving the pristine lakes, rivers, and streams throughout the Mitten—although we’re just as deeply dedicated to conservation. We work to uncover research and facts that daylight the hidden costs of our state’s underground water infrastructure. We’ve completed deep policy research with The Nature Conservancy to figure out the best ways to fund the projects that will fix our state’s overburdened water infrastructure and ensure that when the work begins, the costs and benefits will be shared in a more equitable way and not fall only to those who need help the most.
We also worked with The Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA) to bring data to the conversation on costs to repair and rebuild the state’s water infrastructure. MITA called PSC following Michigan’s low grade on the American Society of Civil Engineer’s Infrastructure Report Card. As a part of this work, PSC developed a methodology to estimate Michigan’s drinking water infrastructure investment. While reliable methodology and accurate cost estimates are important, perhaps the greater takeaway from our work with MITA is that enhanced planning is necessary at the local and state levels to better quantify needs and ensure that investments are being made to continue to provide safe, reliable water supplies to residents and to appropriately manage stormwater and wastewater.
PSC Goes International . . .
After years of partnering with organizations at home, it was only a matter of time before we hit the road to work with surrounding states and our northern neighbors in Canada as well. We share the incredible resources that are the Great Lakes, and our Canadian partners have just as many groups interested in protecting them as we do. We partnered with the Great Lakes Protection Fund to guide the formation of the Great Lakes One Water Partnership, which is composed of 27 shoreline community foundations and their community partners across the Great Lakes basin. With PSC’s help in providing project oversight, program evaluation, grant management, and custom communications assets, they’re working together to advance innovative solutions to complex water management challenges in their own communities.
The Plot Thickens
The challenges that Michigan’s water resources and their stewards face are numerous and almost always complicated. Concerns range from chemical contamination through overflowing sewage and dangerous PFAS seeping into the groundwater to lack of protection for healthy landscapes and animal habitats. Then there’s the inefficient and crumbling infrastructure that transports water from one end of the state to the other. Our good and bad water experiences combined make up Michigan’s legacy. Local government and nongovernment organizations charged with safeguarding water in Michigan know that PSC is a trustworthy source for help. And whether they need our research to better understand the outcomes of smart water affordability measures or our assistance in implementing programs and marketing campaigns that speak to the dangers of unchecked septic systems, PSC is ready to lend a hand (or a bucket) to our state’s water resource champions.
Research, Innovate, Action
For all of these projects and more, we’ve brought every facet of our expertise to the work. We’ve had the opportunity to see a number of projects through every single stage, facilitating commission meetings, researching policy to develop recommendations, creating strategies to implement plans, evaluating programs that are put in place, and telling communities about the resulting opportunities and increases in Great Lakes basin health, safety, and sustainability. We’ve become a one-stop shop for many of our clients, and it’s all in service of our mission to improve the quality of life for residents of Michigan and beyond.
For Michigan and Beyond
Our work in these areas leads everywhere in Michigan—from the education of local communities to empower them to take control of their health and environments to the execution of state policy and plans to fix our roads, strengthen our economy, and protect and share our water resources. Our history in water work is prolific, and we know that the future is just as bright and broad. Behind every turn of a faucet and every drop in the bucket—PSC will be there for you.