Kalamazoo City
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A Brief History of the Water Division

The City of Kalamazoo Water Division can trace its beginnings to 1869 with a hand-dug well located on South Burdick Street slightly north of Axtell Creek. Within two years, a new well needed to be dug. This well remained in occasional use until the early 1940's. Over time, new wells were dug, additional land was purchased for well fields, and storage tanks were constructed.

In 1941, chlorine, at the rate of 0.2 parts per million, was added as "a precaution against some possible contamination." In 1951, a fluoride compound was added for strengthening tooth enamel. In 1973, a water chemist joined the staff and organized the laboratory. The laboratory achieved accreditation the following year.

As recently as 1964 the Water service area for the Department of Public Utilities encompassed only the City of Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo Township, and the Wastewater service area encompassed only the City of Kalamazoo. Over time, both service areas began to grow as it kept pace with the development of the metropolitan area. As of 2000, the water service area encompassed 10 municipalities, the City of Kalamazoo included.

The Water Division currently provides services to the City of Kalamazoo, a portion of the City of Portage, the Village of Richland, and all or part of seven townships in the county. In total, there are over 35,000 water accounts servicing approximately 114,000 customers. Those municipalities with service contracts with the City of Kalamazoo are:

  • City of Portage (an area between Kilgore Rd. and I-94)
  • Village of Richland
  • Comstock Township
  • Cooper Township
  • Kalamazoo Township
  • Oshtemo Township
  • Pavilion Township
  • Richland Township
  • Texas Township

Water operators are certified by the Michigan Department of Public Health, which also performs independent laboratory tests to assure that the water quality meets State standards. The Water System continues to expand and modify operational processes to meet the changing needs of our customers and regulatory agencies. The Public Utilities Department staff is committed to providing our customers with high quality and safe drinking water at affordable rates.

Organizational Structure

The Water Division is responsible for providing a safe, convenient, and dependable water supply to the public. This includes both the drilling and maintenance of wells and also a reliable storage and distribution system. The departments within the Water division are Administration, Water Supply, Distribution System, Commercial Office, Inventory Stores, Building Services, and Accounting.