Great Lakes Water Authority in Detroit Partners with U-M, MSU, and WSU on Wastewater Sensors, R&D


The Great Lakes Water Authority in Detroit, which provides water and wastewater services to 127 municipalities in southeast Michigan, today announced it is partnering with the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and Michigan State University on using wastewater sensors, regenerative energy, and improving water quality tracking.

“The Authority is always seeking out partnerships that will help us pioneer solutions to optimize our operations,” says Sue McCormick, CEO of the GLWA. “At our core, we are scientists and engineers, and the treatment and other processes that occur in our plants and piping systems depend heavily on complicated chemistry, microbiology, and hydraulics.

“If there are ways to enhance our ability to deliver water of unquestionable quality and effective, efficient wastewater services through new technology or breakthrough research, we want to seize those opportunities.”

The research will focus on a cross-section of projects, including, but not limited to:

1. Dynamic Collection System Control (U-M)

This project will examine the feasibility of using sensors to send real-time data to GLWA operators, who will then be able to use that data to control storm water flow in the system. This will assist the Authority in avoiding discharges to the environment and water backups during large storms.

2. Energy Generation from Biosolids (MSU)

The Authority is working with researchers to understand how it can repurpose bio-solids, along with organic waste, to generate energy, which could potentially help GLWA’s Water Resource Recovery Facility, perhaps meeting all of its energy needs.

3. Drinking Water Monitoring System Enhancement (WSU)

The project will enhance an existing system that captures data on water quality from Lake Huron to Lake Erie. There are 15 utility systems, including GLWA, that draw source water from the 80-mile stretch of these connected waterways to serve people in various communities. This research will be compiled into one central database, and it will be available to all involved water utilities to monitor changing water quality along the waterways. The results of the project will help to better pinpoint where water quality may shift along the route, and serve as an early warning system. The enhancements being made via the research will further leverage an investment being by the state of Michigan which will provide updated equipment for the monitoring system.

4. Contaminants of Emerging Concern of Drinking Water Treatment (WSU)

The Environmental Protection Agency periodically publishes contaminants of emerging concern in drinking water due to occurrence data across the country. The project will evaluate the GLWA drinking water treatment process if exposed to these harmful chemicals, and assess the efficiency of the removal of selected chemicals at each water treatment process step under various conditions.

“The purpose of these partnerships is to continue improving GLWA’s water treatment processes, discover solutions for unanticipated risks, and reduce energy consumption, thereby reducing polluting emissions, among other things,” says Cheryl Porter, COO of the GLWA. “This innovative new approach to water and sewerage treatment is also anticipated to help GLWA attract and retain top talent in the state of Michigan, and provide a hands-on learning experience to students.”

For more information on the Authority, please visit

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