Water's True Cost

As the nation prepares to pour hundreds of billions of federal dollars into rescuing water systems, the Great Lakes News Collaborative investigates the true cost of water in the Great Lakes region and beyond

Throughout the Great Lakes region and across the U.S., water systems are aging.

In some communities, this means water bills that residents can’t afford or water that’s unsafe to drink. It means that vulnerable systems are even more at risk in a changing climate. From shrinking cities and small towns to the comparatively thriving suburbs, the true cost of water has been deferred for decades. As the nation prepares to pour hundreds of billions of federal dollars into rescuing water systems, the Great Lakes News Collaborative investigates the true cost of water in the Great Lakes region and beyond.

Great Lakes Now Presents

Episode 2205: Water's True Cost

The Great Lakes News Collaborative looks at the cost of water in the region and beyond.


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Water’s True Cost
- by Circle of Blue

The quality of Michigan’s water infrastructure and the consequences of failure, while still real and apparent, are no longer being ignored.

Ontario faces uneven investment in water infrastructure
- by Andrew Reeves

While much-needed money is being directed to aging drinking water infrastructure, stormwater and sewer systems have been neglected.

Even in Canada, where water prices are low, aging infrastructure and rising costs are a problem
- by Andrew Reeves

Water, while still overall affordable in Canada compared to other countries, is growing more expensive as the cost of neglecting infrastructure for decades comes due.

Five fixes for Michigan’s drinking water woes

The Great Lakes News Collaborative asked state and national experts how Michigan could break the cycle of underfunding and poor decision-making that has left water systems across Michigan in sorry shape.

Michigan’s ‘Very Big Opportunity’ in Infrastructure Windfall
- by Circle of Blue

More communities gain access to the largest federal infusion in a half century.

Some Michigan water systems are overbuilt, underfunded. Are mergers the answer?
- by Bridge Michigan

Customers get cheaper, cleaner water when communities share the cost of infrastructure. But Michigan’s experience shows how political conflicts and logistical challenges can complicate the math.

High Cost of Water Hits Home
- by Circle of Blue

Rising rates hurt Michigan’s poorest residents.

Short-changing Michigan local governments has resulted in deteriorating water systems and other services
- by Michigan Public

Many of Michigan’s cities are reaching a crisis point because of a decline in federal dollars for water and sewer infrastructure made worse by the state’s centralized taxing system.

Michigan’s lack of septic system regulations is causing problems for some of its most pristine lakes
- by Michigan Public

The cost of updating sewer systems in growing communities is either a hefty price tag or polluted waters.

Michigan’s 20th Century water systems too big for its shrinking city populations
- by Natasha Blakely

Cities around the Great Lakes region struggle with the cost of water maintenance and operation as their populations decline.

Water woes loom for Michigan suburbs, towns after decades of disinvestment
- by Bridge Michigan

Michigan cities rich and poor, big and small have been delaying maintenance on their water systems for decades. Now, even wealthy towns are suffering the consequences of past reluctance to pay for water system upkeep.

Many Rural Towns Have Neglected Drinking Water Systems for Decades
- by Michigan Public

Rural Michigan’s shrinking populations, growing poverty, and diminished state and federal assistance have fueled a crisis of underfunded drinking water infrastructure.

After Decades of Neglect, Bill Coming Due for Michigan’s Water Infrastructure
- by Circle of Blue

Federal and state governments begin to reverse course on underinvestment to address water’s true cost.

Great Lakes News Collaborative examines Water’s True Cost
- by GLN Editor

For the whole month of May, Great Lakes Now will be looking at aging water infrastructure and the rising literal cost of water as part of a series from the Great Lakes News Collaborative.

Join the Conversations: Events on “Water’s True Cost” will answer your questions about water infrastructure
- by GLN Editor

As the Great Lakes News Collaborative prepares to publish and air stories about water’s true cost, get these free, virtual events on your calendar to learn more about your drinking water.

Water’s True Cost: Episode Sneak Peek Watch Party
- by GLN Editor

Join GLN Producer Anna Sysling for a conversation with several guests who all played a part in this episode’s story about the complicated financial, public health and infrastructural implications of our drinking water.

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