DETROIT -

Detroit's Water Department is worth a couple billion dollars, but selling it is not an option, says Bill Nowling, the spokesman for emergency manager Kevyn Orr.

Read: Detroit's water department could be next up for leasing

"The City of Detroit would own the water department, own the pipes, it would own the water, it would be run by an authority just like the city and county buildings in Detroit, those are owned by taxpayers but run by an authority," said Nowling.

It's been one of the most hotly contested items on the city's asset list that until a few months ago was controlled by a federal judge.

Turnaround expert Larry Gardner says Orr is doing exactly what any turnaround receiver would do.

"If you recall when they had a study done it was 80 percent overstaffed, it's been 80 percent overstaffed. So if you're looking at structurally changing the municipal water department as well as Belle Isle, it's an easy thing to do. It's really not unlike having a non-profit run the Detroit Zoo," said Gardner.

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Orr believes this new arrangement will free up a lot of that value and have rent checks in the neighborhood of 40 to $100 million a year without having to shell out money to maintain and operate the water system.

"We're protecting the jewel, in fact we're making it perform better for the city and not changing ownership of it is a good thing, it's about making sure the assed it used appropriately and that the taxpayer in the city receive the appropriate benefit," said Nowling.