MSU’s Michigan Water School receives $100K grant from Erb Family Foundation to partner with the National Charrette Institute

Water School helps local and state officials and others increase their knowledge about water management and gain access to tools and resources to help impact their local economy.

Illustration shows a topographical map identifying the different areas within a watershed. Michigan Sea Grant
At Water School, elected and appointed officials learn the various functions that watersheds serve and why they are an important consideration in decision making. Illustration | Michigan Sea Grant.

The Erb Family Foundation has awarded $100,000 to support Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan Water School, a policy-neutral, fact-based program designed to help local decision-makers increase their knowledge about water management and gain access to tools and resources to help impact their local economy. Watersheds in Michigan cross multiple political jurisdictions and often have complex water quality, quantity, and policy issues that impact the overall economics, health and well-being of citizens.

“Water School has been an important way for local and state officials and their staff to learn about the many nuances of water quality, quantity, policy and economics. We continue to appreciate that the Erb Family Foundation has been a great partner in helping to make Water School possible,” said Mary Bohling, a Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator and co-leader of the Water School Leadership Team.

For the past three years, Water School has been supported with funding from the Erb Family Foundation. The Foundation focuses on advancing an environmentally healthy and culturally vibrant metropolitan Detroit and Great Lakes ecosystem. “The Erb Family Foundation continues to be grateful for the opportunity to support Michigan Water School’s critical work cultivating Great Lakes stewardship among decision makers. We believe that providing place-based information promotes effective policy that will more expeditiously and effectively achieve our shared goal of a flourishing Great Lakes ecosystem,” said Neil Hawkins, Erb Family Foundation president.

Michigan Water School helps local decision-makers increase their knowledge about water management. Photo | Michigan Sea Grant

Erb’s generous grant will enable the Water School Leadership Team to partner with the National Charrette Institute to evaluate the current Water School module and seek ideas from Water School participants, Advisory Council, partners, and staff to assess the impact of the program and explore opportunities to advance its effectiveness. The National Charrette Institute is a program within MSU’s School of Planning, Design and Construction that is dedicated to transforming the way people work together by building capacity for collaboration. “NCI is excited to apply its principles of charrettes and engagement to help leadership and participants work together to assess and improve their program,” said Holly Madill, director.

MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant, and National Charrette Institute staff will work with several southeast Michigan watershed groups and the Water School’s external Advisory Council to evaluate the program, establish a strategic vision, and provide ongoing education with watershed groups to local and state officials.

“We’re especially glad that we were able to pivot in the pandemic year to provide Water School as a webinar series so people can still access this important information. We’re excited about the opportunities that NCI will bring in helping us to evaluate and ultimately improve the Water School,” said Bohling.

Michigan Sea Grant is a cooperative program of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, and is part of the National Sea Grant College Program administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Michigan Sea Grant supports research, outreach and education to enhance sustainable use of Great Lakes resources.

More information about Michigan Water School is available online, or by contacting Mary Bohling at or 313-410-9431.

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