Recent water main break in southeast Michigan highlights importance of drinking water infrastructure

MSU Extension offers a free online program to help communities learn more about water infrastructure issues.

The Great Lakes Water Authority discovered a water main break on August 13, 2022, that caused a loss of pressure prompting a boil water advisory for over a million people in southeast Michigan. A boil water advisory occurs when a community’s water source could have germs in it that could make people sick. The advisory was lifted on August 20 due to a stabilization of system pressures and the completion of water quality testing in accordance with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy regulations.

During a boil water advisory, water used for drinking, brushing teeth, washing dishes and other activities needs to be boiled for one minute and then allowed to cool before it can be used. The Great Lakes Water Authority provides answers about actions to take during a boil water advisory on its website. Residents of areas impacted by the Boil Water Advisory also need to take additional actions before resuming water use. It is possible another advisory will need to be issued if water pressure drops again.

The transmission water main that broke transports drinking water from a treatment plant near Lake Huron to southeast Michigan. The water main break has now been repaired, however, the process of filling, flushing and disinfecting the water main is expected to continue until September 21. The Great Lakes Water Quality Authority is also requesting that all 23 communities initially impacted by the August 13 Boil Water Advisory limit outdoor water use to preserve water pressure until the new water main is in full use—expected by September 21.

Where to find water advisories

Wondering how to find out about potential boil water advisories in your community? Check your county water resources website, sign up for alerts from your municipality or follow those organizations on social media. If you observe a gushing pipe that could be a broken water main or a potential chemical spill into a water body, report it to the Michigan Department of Environment and Great Lakes Pollution Emergency Alert System hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (800-292-4706). Some counties and municipalities also want you to report any issues directly to them. This online tip sheet may be helpful in identifying any illegal discharges in your area and also includes some southeast Michigan reporting phone numbers.

Learn more about water infrastructure

The availability of drinking water can be taken for granted until a failure occurs. MSU Extension highlights where drinking water comes from, how to maintain water quality and how to pay for water infrastructure maintenance through its free Michigan Water School program. The self-paced webinar program features sessions on water quality, quantity, and policy, as well as how to plan for water infrastructure replacement. Michigan Water School is designed for local decision makers to learn the fundamentals of water science and may be of interest to community water advocates as well. If you are interested in finding out about future Michigan Water School classes, please contact

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 34 university-based programs.

This article was prepared by Michigan Sea Grant under award NA180AR4170102 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce through the Regents of the University of Michigan. The statement, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Commerce, or the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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