150 Years of the Grand Rapids Water System


The early water sources in the City of Grand Rapids came from large, natural springs on the city's hillsides. It was said that people could dig a few feet into the ground to find fresh water. As the city grew, natural springs became unsustainable to meet the water demand. To address this problem, a group of private investors established the Grand Rapids Hydraulic Company (GRHC) in 1848. However, after various disastrous fires and poor water quality, city officials began to discuss a water system owned by the city.  This led to a vote on July 20, 1873, where 96% of Grand Rapids voters said yes to using $250,000 ($6.3 million in 2023) to establish a Water System.

The vision shown by our leaders and residents in 1873 paved the way for a bright future in securing our city's water supply. The GRHC was eventually dissolved by the Michigan State Supreme Court in 1908. As a result, our city emerged as the exclusive water provider to our community, taking full control of all the GRHC assets. As the city grew, it embarked on a series of transformative steps in its water management.

In 1912, the city started pumping water from the Grand River and built its first filtration plant along Monroe Avenue. The Monroe Plant underwent various expansions during the 1920s and 1930s. Ten years later, the city constructed a pipeline connecting Lake Michigan to the Monroe Plant.  In 1962, the city constructed the Lake Michigan Filtration Plant (LMFP) at its current location along Lake Michigan. These two plants jointly served the city and its surrounding communities for several decades. In 1992, the city achieved a significant milestone with the expansion of the LMFP, increasing its treatment capacity to 135 million gallons per day. This marked the decommissioning of the Monroe Plant.

Today, the Grand Rapids Water System is a testament to progress, employing just over 116 dedicated employees. What was once a community reliant on springs and creeks has transformed into a resilient system that pumps water from Lake Michigan and delivers it to our community through a network of 1,300 miles of water mains, supported by 16 storage tanks and 11 pumping stations.

The decision made by voters 150 years ago has stood the test of time, impacting the lives of over 325,000 people in our community every single day. The City’s Water System continues its commitment to providing our community with the highest quality water and service to our community.