Oakland Area Communities Leverage Assets through Strategic Initiative

Media contact: Stephanie Carroll, City of Auburn Hills, 248.364.6802, scarroll@auburnhills.org

March 18, 2014—The communities of Auburn Hills, Orion Township, Rochester Hills and Oakland County Water Resource Commissioner’s Office representing the City of Pontiac announce a formalized collaboration called the North Oakland County Water Authority (NOCWA), to address challenges that the communities are facing with regards to local water systems and to increase efficiencies through intergovernmental cooperation.

Discussions with the committee began in 2012 with the assistance of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), who provided facilitation and data throughout the process. The agreement does not require any of the parties involved to give up control of their operations, it’s simply just another example of how working together cooperatively can help address issues without additional costs.

"It’s refreshing to see true collaboration; where communities work beyond borders to use their existing assets to benefit all. Orion is excited to be part of such a team" said Chris Barnett, Supervisor of Orion Township.

In an effort to leverage their combined capabilities and resources, NOCWA has developed and will soon begin structuring a project that will provide shared management of water system assets and allow for the negotiation of water services with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD). NOCWA worked with DWSD with the understanding that the end goals of the agreement would result in mutual benefit to both organizations through rate sustainability and a forward thinking vision that could offset the need for expensive capital projects that would only benefit one agency.

Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash, said this early stage of intergovernmental cooperation will provide the foundation for increased efficiencies in the future. "For example, Pontiac has eight million gallons of excess water storage capacity that can be used to reduce the cost of water purchased from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) during peak flow periods," Nash said.

He explained that Detroit charges a higher rate for water purchased during peak flow periods. "By purchasing water during "off peak" hours, we can realize significant savings," Nash said. "When we use Pontiac’s excess storage capacity, each NOCWA member will benefit."

Each of the communities involved have been met with challenges over the last several years that include pressure and system reliability and water storage capacity. In looking at how each of the communities owns and operates their assets, it was determined that through proactive planning and collaboration, that there was also an economic benefit to entering into an Interlocal agreement for NOCWA.

"As local governments, it is our fiduciary responsibility to look at all aspects of the services we provide. In working with the communities of Orion Township, Pontiac and Rochester Hills, we were able to find new ways of providing a service in a more cost effective and reliable manner," added Auburn Hills Mayor Kevin McDaniel.

To realize the maximum benefits of the NOCWA, there are three phases that will need to be implemented. This first phase involves establishing the formal agreement between the parties. The next phase includes instituting operational changes and utilizing the City of Pontiac’s excess water storage capacity. This excess storage capacity can be shared or used to offset NOCWA’s peak water demand from DWSD, resulting in significant savings to the NOCWA member partners. The third phase involves capital investment in infrastructure that improves the overall system reliability.

"The establishment of this authority provides the ability to share best practices, including managing our water usage and rates from DWSD to enhance services to our residents," stated Bryan K. Barnett, Mayor of Rochester Hills.

Formal adoption of the agreement by all the communities involved is slated for April.