New rural water quality protection guidebook prepared by Michigan State University

New guidebook is a “must have” that details best management practices that lower the impact of land use activities on water bodies and provides sample language for community master plans and zoning ordinances.

The Planning and Zoning Center at Michigan State University, a part of the Land Policy Institute, has developed a new planning and zoning guide­book for use by local government officials in rural parts of Michigan. The new Rural Water Quality Protection Guidebook is a necessary addition to the library of planning commissioners, zoning administrators, and local appointed and elected officials in rural Michigan and throughout the Midwest Great Lakes states. It is a "must have" for those working to prevent future contamination of rural watersheds by use of planning and zoning tools.

The guidebook provides information on the following topics, among others:

  • How development and other land activities affect water quality
  • Provides an overview of the many entities engaged in water quality protection (e.g., local, state and federal government, individual property owners and nonprofit organizations)
  • Provides educational materials on the best management practices to lower the impact of land use activities on water bodies
  • Provides sample language for community master plans and zoning ordinances that helps ensure that future development and other land use activities occur with little impact on the quality of water needed for our communities

The guidebook offers a simple and straightforward approach that is uniquely suited to enable small, rural communities with limited staff and resources with the crafting, updating and implementing of master plans and zoning ordinances.

The guidebook is divided into four chapters (Introduction, Understanding Watersheds, the Umbrella of Protection for the Watershed, and Best Management Practices in Rural Areas) and features two appendices (Appendix A: Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance Sample Language, and Appendix B: Local Planning and Zoning Assessment Tool). Chapter 4 and Appendix A comprise the bulk of the guidebook, and are organized to include a description of each major low-impact development category, along with a description of the category, a list of best management practices addressed within the category, and "Good," "Better," and "Best” tables for that category. For each best management practice in that category there is:

  • A description of the issue, including the problem being addressed, a gap left for local regulations and an explanation of key terms. 
  • A proposed approach in the master plan, including a description, an explanation of key terms and key master plan language. 
  • A proposed approach in the zoning ordinance, including a description, an explanation of key terms and key zoning ordinance language.

The guidebook was prepared with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant. The goal of the GLRI is the physical restoration of the Great Lakes and the rivers, streams and near-shore areas that feed them. The guidebook’s makers goal is to prevent further environmental degradation by assisting local and regional stakeholders with the adoption of measures that will ensure protection of water quality as new development and redevelopment occurs around the Great Lakes. Learn more about the MSU Planning and Zoning Center's GLRI project at Saginaw Bay Watershed Project.

This free publication is available for download at: Rural Water Quality Protection Guidebook.

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