DETROIT -

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department says there is help for those who have been tardy with their water bills and had their service subsequently shut off. The department is sponsoring the Detroit Residential Water Assistance Program (DRWAP), which they say has close to $1 million to help customers.

Funds are generated from voluntary contributions from Detroit retail customers. 

What happened

Earlier this year, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department said it would be more assertive toward delinquent customers. About 46,000 shut-off notices were mailed out in May and service to 4,500 customers was cut over the past few weeks.

Of the customers shut off, "more than half of those came into the office and paid the accounts in full" within a day or two, department spokeswoman Curtrise Garner said. About 17,000 customers currently are on payment plans.

About 90,000 active customers in Detroit are delinquent on their bills to the tune of about $90 million, she added.

Detroit's water department, which is responsible for about $6 billion of the city's $18 billion in debt, is one of the major issues in the bankruptcy. But unlike some debt that is not supported by revenue streams, water department debt is covered by bill-paying customers.

Who qualifies

Customers who qualify under DRWAP will receive up to $1,500 toward their water bill.  However, all participants will be required to make some contribution toward their account.

DRWAP is similar to a budget plan:  The customer is responsible for paying a set amount toward their monthly bill and the DRWAP program pays the difference. Additionally, if the account is delinquent, the customer also is responsible for paying toward that amount. 

The DRWAP program will make a quarterly contribution toward the outstanding amount, as long as the customer meets their monthly responsibility for payment of the water and sewer bill. As long as the customer is in compliance with the program, DRWAP will pay the difference, which is up to $1,500 for the year.

Qualified applicants must be at or below 200 percent of Federal Government Poverty Levels; live in a single-family dwelling and be responsible for paying their water bill.  Currently, the income of a family of four cannot exceed $47,700. The total amount of the applicant’s bill cannot exceed $2,500.

In addition, customers need to be a Detroit resident and be in receipt of a shut off notice of their water service. The home also must have a new water meter (AMR Technology) installed.

All shut-off action will be suspended pending acceptance into the DRWAP program. Eligible customers can also qualify based on their participation in public assistance programs such as food stamps, disability or Supplemental Security Income.

DRWAP will be administered by The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW), which will screen for eligibility. THAW will forward the names of qualified applicants to DWSD, which will complete final payment arrangements.

Customers seeking assistance can call THAW at (877)-646-2831 for THAW locations and telephone access numbers.   Customers also can contact DWSD customer service at (313) 267-8000 for more information.

For those who don't qualify

For customers that don’t meet the qualifications for DRWAP, there are other options.  Customers can enter into the DWSD Budget Plan, which will spread their bills evenly over 12 months and there also is the Payment Plan Agreement, that can be tailored for the individual customer’s needs. 

Detroit sells water to suburbs

Detroit's water department serves about 700,000 city residents and 4 million people in southeastern Michigan. Detroit sells its water service to suburban communities, which then bill their residents for it.

As part of the bankruptcy reorganization, state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr has sought the creation of a regional water department that would include the metro area's three major counties. But some suburban leaders are concerned about the possible future financial burdens that infrastructure repairs on the aging system would place on their residents.

Orr has made it clear that selling the water department "is not an option under consideration," said his spokesman, Bill Nowling.

DWSD customer service locations in Detroit

Downtown Customer Service Center - Water Board Building

735 Randolph Street, First Floor (enter off Bates Street) Monday through Saturday 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., (closed on Saturday from 12 to 12:30 p.m.)