Session 2: Michigan Water School Webinar Series - Water Quality
December 3, 2020
MSU Extension Water School provides local decision-makers, appointed and elected officials, and municipal staff with critical, relevant information needed to understand Michigan’s water resources, including the fundamentals of water science, in order to support sound water management decisions and increase awareness of current and future local and state water issues.
Water Quality - Presenter Erick Elgin, Water Resource Extension educator
Panelists Rich Bowman Michigan Nature Conservancy Director of Policy; Marie McCormick Friends of the Rouge Executive Director; Sarah Fronczak MSU Extension Environmental Management educator
Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the MSU Water School webinar series. This is webinar number two of four ending on November 19th. My name is Mary Bohling I'm an educator with the MSU Extension Sea Grant program. I will be your host for and moderator throughout the webinar series. As indicated in our opening slides MSU programs are open to anyone and everyone. If you're having technical difficulties please let us know in the chat and one of our behind-the-scenes staff will try and help. Today's webinar is being recorded and includes a presentation on water quality followed by q and a with the presenter and then a panel discussion and more q and a with panelists if time allows. Because this is a webinar format the speaker option is not available for participants instead please type your questions into the q and a box. My colleagues will be monitoring the questions and will present them during the q and a portions of our agenda. Questions that go unanswered during the webinar will be addressed and sent out to all participants about a week after the webinar. Okay, so let's get started our presenter for the water quality topic today is Erick Elgin, a limnologist and water resources educator with MSU Extension. His main responsibilities are to promote and research the wise use protection and restoration of our freshwater systems. Erick's recent efforts focus on aquatic plants, lake management, natural shorelines, invasive species, and improving the knowledge of decision makers to make sound water management decisions. Erick has an M.S. in Aquatic Ecology from the University of Calgary and a B.S. in Natural Resources Management from the University of Minnesota. Welcome Erick thank you for joining us today. Hello everybody
thank you for coming and and I look forward to talking uh for the next 45 minutes about a huge topic in water quality. We hope what we're what we're hoping for is that we're going to give you some foundational information to help foster sound water management decisions in different communities or as individuals or in whatever positions you may hold. In order to do that for such a large topic over a short amount of time we'll be covering looking at water quality broadly and then we're gonna look at specific issues that come up
in communities across Michigan and hopefully that'll that'll help uh with our understanding.
So first, what is water quality? This is actually very difficult to define because it depends, and it depends on its intended use. So, for example if we were looking at a water body like a lake or a reservoir where it is very green, so an abundance of algae is growing there. If that water body was planned to be used or is used for drinking water that water that water would be in poor condition be poor water quality that's because algae can produce toxins, or smells, or tastes that would be difficult to to mitigate for drinking water. However that same water body might be looked at by by anglers as a great place to fish for bass and that's because there's an abundance of food there due to the algae that goes up to the different trophic levels that will give you large and abundant bass, and so the angler might look at that same water body and say this has good water quality for their use of fishing. And so this is why when we define water quality and saying is my water body bad or is my water bad you have to look at what the use is. If it's drinking water that's different from if it's a recreational water only, or if it's a water body used for fishing.
And although it's obvious and you're all here for a reason that you've signed up for but water quality matters and it matters on many different levels. Broadly speaking environmentally this makes sense the better the water quality the better the habitat is for the different organisms that live and reproduce in those systems. So, if habitats are intact the system is in better condition you have the water quality meant for those species to thrive. When we look economically water quality matters because when we see we see this on different across the United States in different communities. As water quality declines so for example if water clarity declines the land property values decline around that lake, and that's the same for if an invasive species then invades that lake. So, an invasive species like Eurasian milfoil may go into a lake may invade a lake and the property values decline in those situations as well. So, there's an economic impact to the water quality and this can be seen maybe a little broader as well to the community for tourism. If a water body is known to be a great walleye fishery and people come from all over to go fishing in that water body, so they buy gas,
they buy food, they eat at restaurants, they stay at hotels in that community there's a net impact to the economy with good water quality to support that fishery. But if that fishery is contaminated with pollutants like dioxins or PCB's or PFA's and you can't eat those fish as much anymore if at all then you would you could potentially lose that tourism. And then moving on to the social side of things we our sense of place is connected to the water here in Michigan because we have so much of it and that connection is connected also to the quality of that water. So, as water quality declines that impacts our sense of place. And then moving into our health these are the obvious impacts if there are contaminants that are toxic to our health there's immediate impacts to us in the short term and long term where it could be E. coli or it could be industrial contaminants.
What's interesting is that water wasn't necessarily looked at in at a broad sense those those three ways instead it was more looked at as a place for us to empty our waste into. Before the Clean Water Act in this in the early 1970s we were putting in a lot of different things.
These pictures show some very famous areas. The top right this picture here shows the Cuyahoga river on fire due to the different debris and chemicals that had been put into the into that river over the many many years. And what's you know so the Cuyahoga river is is very well known for that, but even the Rouge River here in Michigan burst into flames as well and here's an image of one of the firefighting boats putting out the fire from the Rouge River, and now it's been almost 50 years since or just over 50 years since that fire took place here in Michigan. So, our our water bodies weren't always looked at environmentally, socially, and health and economics.
When we talk about pollutants in water we talk about these very broad
pools broad buckets. One is point source pollution the other is non-point source pollution. So, point source pollution is it's like you can point at where the that pollutant is discharging into the environment. So, this can be a smoke stack that's going into the atmosphere it could be a pipe that's discharging directly into a river into a lake, and so you can really point at it. And now when we think of non-point source pollution this is a little bit harder to define or get get a head around but it's it's pollutants that are being spread over over a wide area. And so for example what we can do is picture a city neighborhood and in a rainstorm, and so as the rain falls on the different surfaces, like rooftops the asphalt our sidewalks it's picking up little pieces of pollutants. And as it it all comes together it's coming from all over that landscape goes into our sewers and then enters into the river or water body, and that would be considered non-point source pollution. A study done by the EPA published in 2010 looked at some of the major pollutants in our lakes, reservoirs, and rivers throughout the United States and some of them are not very surprising. We see these here in Michigan, as well, so pathogens, sediments. And pathogens can be E. coli for example fecal coliform sediments, so that's a pollutant that we often don't think of as a pollutant but it actually is a major uh problem because it can impact lots of different species and the characteristics of our water. Nutrients mostly phosphorus and nitrogen and then we get into more of the industrial and legacy contaminants in mercury PCB's and dioxins. And again, we kind of have this intuitively some of the major sources are agriculture non-point sources, atmospheric deposition, and hydro modification like channelization of and habitat modification.
Just as an example for atmospheric deposition I'll link atmospheric deposition with mercury. So in our when we burn coal mercury is released up into the atmosphere when there it either falls into the onto the ground by dry deposition or through precipitation. Once there it can lead into our water bodies and once in the water bodies how it can get into us is through fish. So, it goes into the food chain and then goes into the fish we eat and bio-magnifies into us. But there's lots of ways that pollutants move across the landscape through overland runoff through seepage and just linking in if
folks participants here on the on the webinar saw Ruth's presentation on water quantity we know that there's a lot of connections between the different pools of water out there. And so, as things seep into the ground water that groundwater may end up in discharging into a surface water at some point and then this is how we can have one contaminated area over here and still contaminate a water body far away.
And something just to highlight a little bit more is biological pollutants. So, this would be E. coli it can be invasive species it can be this bacteria leptospirosis which is rat fever. I specifically highlighted this one because in the 80s unfortunately an individual fell into the Rouge River and got this bacteria into their body
and died and this bacteria is known to be in areas with raw sewage in it. So, this is when the Rouge River still had some major impairments that needed to be fixed and this is just one example of why.
So, the next now part of the presentation I'm going to go over some specific water quality issues and some background to those issues and I'm going to start off with non-point source pollution and specifically looking at storm water nutrients, and road salt. This is a great picture just to show the our impact on the landscape and how that can change and increase our non-point source pollution. Lots of vegetation is removed, there's lots of pavement, there's lots of large homes and we with this we see a lot more non-point source pollution so we'll talk about that. Then going into persistent contaminants and there's a lot of them so we're gonna focus on PFA's and then moving into habitat loss and how that impacts water quality.
So, to get started we're going to talk about watersheds. A watershed is the entire area that drains to a common body of water. We all live in one and what's important to note is that it doesn't stop at our different political boundaries. These are natural delineations, and so this is really important to know because when you're in one community trying to do beneficial practices for water quality in your community, you might actually be impacted by a community above you where the stream is flowing into you. And so, you might be making a huge effort but if other communities around you who are connected aren't making the same practices putting the same practice in place you might not be getting as big of a benefit. And so, working together is really important because we look at the watershed, and something just a common thread that I'll be saying throughout this presentation is what we do on land impacts our water and this is when we because what we do in our watersheds impacts our water.
So, broadly looking at at a at a broad scale at a high level scale when we look at watersheds we can look at it as like the Great Lakes watershed. So, the Great Lakes watershed is everything here and this boundary. So, everything that drains into the Great Lakes, but then the Great Lakes are all draining into the St. Lawrence seaway, which drains into the Atlantic ocean. And so, anything done in this in this land area ends up could be impacting the Great Lakes. When we zoom in a little closer we can see that the watersheds can be broken up into smaller pieces of land. And so, we can see that there are different water a different river systems different
watersheds that drain to Lake Superior, into Lake Michigan, and into Lake Huron, in Lake Erie and zooming and this can tell us a lot you know we can we can start to get an understanding of what communities should be talking to one another to work on water quality issues. When we zoom even further we can see so for example looking at the southeast Michigan watersheds. We can see the political boundaries here and see how the watersheds cross all over them.
When we talk about water quality in watersheds we often start by thinking about land cover and land use. So land cover describes the predominant vegetation within a landscape and then land uses the predominant use that we do on the land. So, for example this yellow that we see this is in what was once a lot of prairie biome in the United States and now is mostly row crops. So the yellow is is combo like corn, soybean, wheat and ag like that and then when we move into this more orange color where cropland and pasture, and then the green is referring to forest, and the red is urban, and then we have some large wetland complexes as well.
Another look from a neat map from the Michigan Natural Features Inventory shows Michigan's land cover in a little bit more detail, and you can obviously see, and we all know this is that there's this obvious north-south gradient between the the different land uses. So, you can really see this is this lightish tan is a lot of ag, the red is the urban, and then it moves more into the natural systems. We talk a lot about the land cover and land use because as we change the natural vegetation or we remove the natural vegetation we start to have greater impacts on our water. When we look at urban areas this is one of the reasons why impervious surface.
So, in a natural system with natural vegetation when water falls onto the landscape much of it is either infiltrates into the ground water either shallow or deep, or it is transpired back into the atmosphere, and very little is is run off. But now in contrast as we go into our urban environments with a lot of impervious cover like paved roads, our homes, our buildings much things change a little bit. We get a lot more runoff we don't get as much infiltration and we have about the same transpiration, but it's this runoff number that's really important.
So, here's another a real life look at what we see. So here's land use or land cover in the Rouge watershed and as you can see there's some ag areas in yellow, but mostly a developed watershed which makes sense it's in the Detroit metropolitan area.
And the darker the red the higher intensity development it is and this has a
an obvious connection with the impervious surface. So, as we have higher uh developed intensity we have more impervious surface. So, why does this matter? Why does it matter that we have if we have more impervious surface and we get more runoff from that well? That's because it's not just water runoff is not just water as water runs off of the landscape, off of the different buildings, off of the different surfaces it can pick up into different pollutants. And so, common ones that we find in our urban and agricultural areas are pesticides, fertilizers, oils, heavy metals, salts, bacteria, trash, yard waste, sediment. There's tons of different things that can go into our runoff water and this has some big implications. Because we had to think about where does the water go? So, the water is picking up all of these pollutants throughout the landscape in our developed landscape and in an urban environment it goes down one of these a storm drain. Now in certain communities we have combined sewers and some they are not combined, and so combined is referring to where your storm sewer is connected to your waste water treatment plant. And so your wastewater and storm water go to a treatment plant and and get treated and then discharged into a river or water body and there's a problem with those. So, first of all it's it's fine if it doesn't rain that much, or if the infrastructure can handle it, but oftentimes in large rain events the infrastructure can't handle that and the wastewater treatment plant is designed to then open up and release the untreated waste into a water body. So that causes many issues.
So, in some communities they're not connected but in those communities when they're not connected that means the storm water goes direct mostly or always goes directly into a water body. Sometimes there can be sediment retention basins or other green infrastructure but oftentimes it goes directly into the drain and into a water body without any filtering or cleaning. And hence why we have these stickers that you see with no dumping drains to river.
And when we look at the agricultural landscape we also have some issues here when you remove the vegetation and you expose soil you have the potential of erosion, and so you can have gully erosion, sheet of rosin where a lot of sediment can be moved. A lot of soil can be lost, and so that's sediment going into our water but it's also what does that sediment contain? It can contain some contaminants as well. And this is common over here where this is a drain tile coming out of a field, and although that water looks clear that water can contain high amounts of different contaminants specifically nutrients and that's being studied heavily right now in many different areas. Looking at the content of phosphorus in water coming out of drain tiles.
So, why do we care so much about nutrients? Why is that why are nutrients pollutants? So,
we care so much about nutrients because the more nutrients specifically nitrogen and phosphorus that go into a water body, the more primary production we have so the more plant growth.
This can come in aquatic plants but also algae benthic, algae filamentous, algae phytoplankton, which are pelagic free-floating algae, and in water bodies there's a natural process called eutrophication, but when we start to manipulate the watersheds and we release a lot of nutrients into our water bodies we call that cultural eutrophication. Where lots of nutrients are coming in because of us and that's causing um algal problems plant problems. And and those activities like I've already kind of mentioned are it could be agriculture, it could be fertilizer use on lawns, it can be erosion, sewage, animal wastes lots of different things.
And one of the big problems that comes with eutrophication can be harmful algal blooms or HAB's, or another term is cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae all kind of referring to to similar things. And what this is is some algae have the potential or some bacteria cyanobacteria have the potential of producing toxins and this was in the news not too long ago where Toledo had to close off its drinking water supply because there was a harmful algal bloom blooming in in Lake Erie which caused a lot of issues for a lot of people.
Another way that nutrients can impact us is with our health so when nitrogen fertilizers are applied through time and in large amounts there can be leaching of nitrogen because nitrogen can be picked up by the plants it can be utilized within the soil by bacteria, and there can be some degassing into the atmosphere, but with some depends can go into our groundwater. If it builds up into the groundwater we can have some issues to our health particularly to our babies and pregnant women with the blue baby syndrome where high nitrates in our blood rob the ability of our hemoglobin to uptake oxygen and so that can cause lots of issues. This is an old map you know from 1983 to 2003 so make sure if you're curious if you're in one of these communities that have higher amounts of nitrate take a look at EGLE I hope EGLE
likely has some new data out there, but as you can see there was some areas within Michigan that have high nitrate concentrations within the groundwater.
And kind of rounding out
this my non-point source pollution portion is looking at road salt.
This has gained a lot of steam because as we studied it we started seeing some big implications. So, road salt is predominantly sodium chloride so that's salt and we measure road salt as a pollution by looking at the chloride levels. And as you can see not surprising we see higher chloride in our lakes. This is a map of our lakes that were studied for chloride and higher concentrations of chloride in our urban areas where we use a lot of road salt. And so, what do these numbers mean? Well we've started to see that we can at low levels we start to see some impacts to our freshwater organisms. Specifically what's been studied are the zooplankton which are little organisms that swim and eat algae in our in our lakes and rivers and other waters, and we start to see some disruptions to their populations at pretty low levels. And for us we start seeing some impacts more where water starts to become a little salty at 250 milligrams per liter. Now not surprising so this is this is the looking at the same dat . This axis, the vertical axis we're seeing percent urban land cover in a lake drainage area, and on the horizontal axis we're just seeing the
chloride levels. And so, you can see here's the more land cover the hot the more percent land cover the higher amounts of chloride we're seeing. Which makes sense because there's more paved areas that we are applying road to salt too. So, moving on to my next section in persistent contaminants and there's many different contaminants out there. We typically as individuals get exposed to them by eating, or drinking, or breathing them in, and when we think about
for our waters we are
exposed to them when we're eating fish. And so, persistent contaminants what we're talking about here is contaminants that stay around in the environment for a long time, can usually be easily transported throughout a landscape, and can bio accumulate in our different organisms. By bio accumulate what I mean is that little organisms get exposed, but those little organisms are eaten by larger organisms and then they get a little bit more of that contaminant in them. And then as they get into fish the big predator in the system that fish may have quite a bit now of that contaminant.
And so, when we eat it we can be exposed this is why we have our eat safe fish guidelines out there and different water bodies have different impairments. This is an old sign so
the regulations are a little different now but this is for the Tittabawassee River from Midland to Saginaw in effect because of dioxins and PCB's that accumulate in these fish then and then can enter us and have and have negative consequences to our health. The one example because it's
an emerging contaminant around the world and in Michigan is PFA's so that's per and polyfloral alkyl substances. It's actually referred PFA's is referring to thousands of chemicals formed from carbon and fluorine chains and these have been been manufactured for quite a long time since the 40s and just more and more have been developed through time. These are persistent in the environment and are found in the human body and there's broad statements out there that everyone in the world likely has some PFA's in their blood. So, it's in a lot of products it's in it's we're finding it in a lot of places and unfortunately they don't break down very easily and they accumulate through time, and there is evidence that they that exposure can lead to adverse impacts to our health. So, for example, here are a few that have been identified which could be increased risk risk of thyroid disease, cholesterol levels, fertility decreases infertility in women, lower infant birth weight, and different kinds of cancer and so there is quite a bit.
What's unfortunate is that PFA's, different PFA's have been shown to pass through the placental wall, and so this is why it can all it can it's not just babies and and mothers it's also fetuses.
And here's a map from the environmental working group, so if you type in PFA's
environmental working group into Google you'd be able to use this interactive map so you can zoom into your community to see if you have any problems with PFA's in your community. And so, you can see that it's a little tough to see but there's some where there's military sites, some are drinking water supplies, and then some are others could be ponds or other known sites. And so, you can see there they've found throughout Michigan Michigan has done a lot of work trying to find the locations with large amounts of PFA's and so the the federal government does have a drinking water standard at 70 parts per trillion, but Michigan now has some new standards and I'd encourage you to go to the EGLE
website or the MPART website that's where you can learn about Michigan's response to the PFA"s emerging PFA's issues, MPART.
And you can learn about the different drinking water standards for different kinds of PFA's.
Okay so, moving on to habitat loss and one of the best ways I can I can tell you a lot about what's happened to habitat in in Michigan but one of the best ways to show us is through historical imagery. So this is a a couple slides uh courtesy of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. So, here is a picture of a typical lake here in Michigan we have some natural land cover in its immediate watershed but then also some agricultural use and then immediately around the lake we have quite a bit of development as you can see with all this these are different these are homes. If we look back in time here's from 1938 we can see that there was definitely some agriculture still in the that was in the watersheds or in the watershed but a lot less development there looks like to be some development and now what we're going to do just to show what has changed through time we're going to zoom into specific areas within this lake. So, the first one we're going to look is this wetland habitat up here. So, what we can see here is a wetland shoreline and these are actually emergent vegetation that's coming out into the lake. So, emerging vegetation think of cattails and rushes bull rushes and and things like that. So, this is 1938 and here it is and I would ask you to look at this right here this is a wetland complex.
So, I'll show that one more time. So as you can see that wetland complex has changed completely we have it was channelized and then developed with homes that look like they're on 50-foot
width lots and we had a lot of development and a lot of that shoreline natural shoreline was lost as well as the wetland.
there .This is more now on the southern part of the lake this is 1938 here's another wetland on the lake from 1938 and here's 2014.
so, quite dramatic a lot a loss of well the wetlands is almost a total loss of wetland
and now built up, and so quite a bit of of loss. This is not a abnormal scene on our lakes in southern Michigan in fact a study done in 2012 by team in the DNR showed that it's estimated around 70 percent of the lakes in southern Michigan south of gaylord grayling south is intensely developed and that's interesting. So, we have an identity in our lakes, so the Great Lakes surround us but we also have 11,000 lakes that pocket
our our inland areas and with that we have over a million anglers and we just love living on lakes and that love has has dealt a blow to the quality of these systems.
The EPA along with EGLE periodically does a study called the national lake assessment here in Michigan. They do it over the whole united states but specifically here in Michigan EGLE works with them and what we're seeing here is, so on this axis we have the different stressors to our lakes. So, lake habitat complexity just that's habitat on lakes and then on the bottom is the percentage of lakes that were studied that are seen as either mostly disturbed or most disturbed in red and moderately disturbed in yellow and least disturbed and not assessed. And what we can see here is the top threat the top top stressor to our Michigan lakes is the loss of lakeshore habitat. So we have the lost inhabitant here where around 50 of the lakes studied were in the most disturbed category and interesting you know, so just skipping the second one riparian vegetation that's also indicating habitat, shallow water habitats, also habitat lakeshore disturbance those are all measures of habitat loss but interesting mercury is up here as well. And we can't go on to our water bodies and go fishing without knowing about the mercury that is that builds up in the fish and therefore we have to look into that eat safe fish campaign to know how many fish and what size we should consume while looking at our health.
Habitat loss it's not just the
there's a few things is that this has an impact on, on the organisms that live there. So, when we have the loss of trees, shrubs flowers, grasses, sedges on the shoreline and within the in the water itself we lose habitat for fish, birds, amphibians, and reptiles and we see that impact we can actually have loss of fish populations or changes in the sorry we have loss of frog populations and changes in fish populations.
And for water quality we also see some changes so like I said phosphorus is a really important nutrient when we look at pollutants, nutrient pollutants because of algae. And so what
I want to show you here is on the vertical axis we have two figures we have total phosphorus and we have algae and then we have lakes that were septic system lakes, lakes that have sewers. So, the more urban lakes and then undeveloped lakes and what we see here is more phosphorus and more algae in the developed lakes than in the undeveloped lake. So, when we start to remove habitat and move on to these water bodies we start to see a decline in water quality.
Now it's not just about lakes when we look at wetlands themselves we have lost a tremendous amount of wetlands in Michigan specifically in some of our counties where the highest wetland loss has been estimated to be in the upper 80's to 90 percent of the wetlands have been lost in these counties that are in red. When we zoom in just as an example again southeast Michigan because it's very dramatic the the vast majority of them have been lost and this has some major implications to our water quality, and that's because they do a lot for us. There's a lot of ecosystem services that wetlands provide and what I mean by ecosystem services is like there's there's value to the
wetlands. There's a value to their presence and one of its flood protection. Wetlands have the ability to absorb a tremendous amount of water before letting it out the other end at the discharge end, so removing them you remove flood protection. There's sediment control because when water comes into a wetland it slows way down due to the vegetation and the topography, and so you actually get sediment deposition within the in the wetland and so on the discharge side you have hopefully less sediment. It's great habitat.
This is also where groundwater is recharged. So, again thinking back to the previous water school webinar where we talked about the linkages between the different pools of water. One way that groundwater is recharged is through wetlands, and so it allows for a place for infiltration through the ground and into our water into our groundwater. And there is some pollutants that get filtered out some of the plants can uptake some of the pollutants. Also the chemistry changes and so nitrogen for example may be transformed to nitrogen gas and it's lost into the atmosphere instead of staying within the water itself.
Here's an example of what can happen with flooding. If you are in a in an urban area in a low lying um location within the landscape you are likely in a uh what once was a wetland but now when it's impervious surface water collects and you can have some massive flooding.
So, that that was kind of the main parts of the presentation issues we want to talk about but as you know there are a whole lot of other issues out there that we could talk about and spend a lot more time diving into them and I will cover just a couple more that have implications to a lot of things I just talked about.
And one of that is a changing climate. So, as we get more and more heavy rainfall events we get more and more runoff issues and flooding issues, and when we have those issues we have more pollutants and we really have to worry about how do we deal with those huge flushes of water that's coming off of our landscape and going into our water bodies. How can we slow it down? Also, water our lakes are warming some studies out of Wisconsin showed that there's they're estimating that the most of the natural reproducing walleye within the inland lakes in Wisconsin will be gone in the next 50 years, or will be depleted, and that's due to the warming waters. This is because these cool water fish need colder higher oxygenated waters to survive.
Another issue that's affecting many of our communities is invasive species. This is a great picture to show like the I'm kind of a an interesting impact of of invasive species on your community. So, here's a nice neighborhood and what you have here is a possibly 15 foot tall wall of phragmites or giant reed, an invasive grass that we see all over the state, but specifically in the southeast or southern part of the state. But invasive species cause harm to your community, cause harm to the environment from out competing and replacing native plants to introducing pathogens. It has impacts on our environment on our economics because it can cost a lot of money to control, it can reduce property values, it can damage infrastructure and compromise tourism. And of course there's a lot of other ones out there and your communities might be dealing with some of them as we speak. So, for example beach closures are fairly common in different parts of the state due to E. coli
and there's more and more concern about contaminants that are coming off of asphalt sealants. And so asphalt sealants are making all of our pavement nice and black that are and extending the life well there's a there's some contaminants coming off of there that we're seeing in a lot of different locations and that's a cause of concern as we start to see it build up in our water bodies. The next question is what are those impacts? And of course the broader issues of plastic pollution and micro plastics. You know so it's not just big pieces of pollution it's also small chunks of that get broken down through time. Where now your the question is as the plastics get smaller and smaller into microplastics and nanoplastics what are those implications to us as individuals? And some of the the ones that are fairly scary like pharmaceuticals and more broadly speaking endocrine disrupting compounds.
So, these are compounds these are pollutants that impact our endocrine system which is our hormone regulation system. You can have some we're seeing these in different water bodies throughout the world and there's cause for concern because they're impacting our fish populations which that may be a canary in the coal mine to us or for us.
But a lot of so a lot of what I just mentioned can seem quite overwhelming and a lot of negative news. However I don't think there's a reason to be have a defeatist attitude. We can do a lot and for example community planning can prevent and mitigate many water quality issues, and you know where we can maintain what we desire in our water bodies if it's fishing, if it's wildlife viewing, or if it's for the wildlife in itself, if it's for swimming, drinking. Community planning coming together not just as an individual community or a planning team but as multiple communities maybe through watershed councils and assemblies finding a mechanism to come together there's lots of things we can do to improve our water situation.
A lot of those are are won't be new ideas. There's a lot of things that can be done that that we know about already and so some of those are those best practices out there rain gardens for example
can be utilized this is a curb cut out rain garden. So, there is a for example there's a drain in here the a typical sewer drain but before the water reaches that sewer drain it first has to go into a depression where there's usually native vegetation but not always and that has the ability to soak up the water slowly and then also deposit different pollutants before it goes into the sewer which then likely may go right into a water body. Or in agricultural areas there's many many different best practices out there that can be done to keep the nutrients on the soil or keep your soil in place. This is a grassy waterway for example where here's the here's the crop but this is a zone of of water movement, and so if this grassy waterway wasn't there there might be a lot of soil loss. So, this is where a farmer or producer put this in where they can maybe even utilize this crop of hay or alfalfa, but then also preserving that soil and keeping our water cleaner.
Then on the policy and at the community level there's lots of different things that can be done from overlay zones and different ordinances like setbacks many different things can be done to help protect our water through time. What's great is that this is a nice webinar series so the next webinar is going to touch on some of these with water finance and planning on November 5th, so I hope you guys can make that. And there's lots of different resources out there um for communities and individuals in urban or agricultural environments that things that you can do to protect our water and improve its quality.
So thank you very much. I
know this is a quick um run through of of water quality and there's lots of things to talk about and I just like to give a shout out to my to the other authors of this presentation Bindu Bhakta and Lois Wilson. The three of us have been doing the water quality session for a few years now. Thank you very much and are there any
questions? Right, thank you Erick. We do appreciate all of the great things you were able to cover. I know it is a short time period but we're gonna be able to follow up with folks afterwards with some additional resources. I did want to take about the next 15 minutes or so to turn it over to my Sea Grant colleague Geneva Langland. She's been monitoring the chat in the q and a and so Erick she'll pose a question to you that's been brought up by our participants and see if you can answer it, and if not we'll get answers out to everybody afterwards. So, take it over Geneva. Thank you Mary and thank you Erick for that presentation. We have a good number of questions coming in and I'll encourage people to keep submitting them through the q and a box. We'll see what we can get to. Several folks are wondering about road salt and if there are any good programs or alternatives or solutions to help avoid contamination from road salt? There is and actually Lois Wolfson that I mentioned as one of the authors worked on some a project here in Michigan a few years ago with that information. What I can do is
my emails readily available I think I saw it on that last slide you can send it to me and we can I can send you that information, but also some of the other states are are really putting an effort towards this Minnesota Wisconsin and also some states in the northeast United States have also been putting in a lot of effort towards road salt, and so there's a lot of information out there. If you if you want to Google or contact me and I can give you that information. But one of the things that some of the things are very obvious.
So, there's lots of best practices that have been developed and new technologies and solutions are being looked at all the time, but one of them is calibrate your equipment your community's equipment. And so oftentimes there's way more salt that is being applied than that than is necessary and actually it's just waste you the more salt you put on doesn't mean the better the road will be and because there's a threshold there. And so if you can calibrate your equipment you will be putting less salt on the road and then you'll be saving money for your community and you're in a better situation for your water bodies as well in your community. Others there's you can go in instead of using rock salt where it's those big chunks you can use different solutions that have been developed but different solutions might have pros and cons too. I know beet juice was utilized in some circumstances but beet juice I think also had research I think shows that if that runs off into our waters that can change the biological oxygen demand. So, that's a negative of that but I would have to look into that a little bit more.
Excellent, thank you and I know that we're sending out some resources after the presentation is over so maybe you can pop some links to those resources into the roundup that Katelyn is going to get to participants. Perfect I'll do that. Awesome so this is a question maybe for you and maybe for Mary.
Someone is wondering about good guides or websites for identifying aquatic plants on their property especially helping to distinguish between ones that are native and invasive. Yeah perfect aquatic plants are one of my specialties I they're they're a lot of fun. So, there are different guides out there um I'm going to share the I'll share some of those that you can purchase on that resource that Geneva just mentioned but just a couple of them. There's a great introductory book from the University of Wisconsin called through the looking glass and that has great pictures, great description of the plants of aquatic plants. So, through the looking glass through the University of Wisconsin extension and they have a couple other books as well that's helpful. In Michigan we do have some guides that can help broadly and you can find I'll make sure that that's on that resource list. Fantastic, and going back one step Kathy David from the State of Michigan let us know in the chat that Wisconsin Department of Transportation has a road salt conference every year that usually happens about this time of year. So, if people are interested in that they can always look up more info on Wisconsin dot's annual conference. Thanks for that yeah. Let's see a question. So, a lot of the topics today were about either the Great Lakes or inland lakes but is the data similar and are the conversations similar around contamination in rivers as well as lakes? Yes, So yeah up in the beginning part of my presentation I gave those common sources as well as common pollutants in our water bodies and that was from lakes, reservoirs, and rivers and they they really overlap. If I separated lakes and rivers out you there wouldn't be that much difference and so we combined them into one list. So, a lot of those same issues now some of the solutions may change and there are still some some differences. For example, wastewater treatment is typically discharged into rivers not into lakes. So, there can be some more conversation around that because with wastewater there's nutrient pollution, there's pollution due to temperature, there's and there can be other contaminants PFA's for example is a contaminant that can enter into rivers through wastewater treatment plants. Also rivers when we look at erosion and what we've done to them so we kind of talked about land modification and I mentioned channelization, and so just habitats being rivers being channelized and damned those have a little bit different but a lot of what we mentioned still does impact rivers similarly. Excellent, speaking of we induce changes and different kinds of channelization and such like that. We have someone wondering at what level of regulation or ordinance does protection against wetland loss usually happen is that a state level if conversation is that more of a local government issue. And I'm not the best person to talk about the the law side of things and that'll be a great question to continue to our next presenters in our webinar series. But there's regulation at the federal, state levels, and local levels can local regulation can come into place once the and again I don't want to say something to incorrect. But where the state stops regulating at a certain wetland size the local government can come in and regulate further and I wish I could give you a little bit more information but you will be getting that in the other webinar series. Excellent, we got another comment on the road salt question someone saying that Wayne State has been quite involved in road salt research so that's a research hub to watch for information about road salt solutions. Great, question about nutrient transport through tile drainage. Wondering if there's any database or maps for tile drain locations in Michigan and if there's any information on the percent of nutrient coming through tile fields into water bodies in Michigan? So, first the database I can't
Lois I believe is on the call she's done a lot of stuff in the river raisin watershed I'd be curious if she can answer that in the chat but I don't believe there is a one-stop shop for tile drains. When I've worked with different, yup thank you Sarah, and I have worked sometimes drain commissioners or conservation districts can have old maps or they have old files that have been put in for tile drains and so you can contact your local conservation district and it might be housed within the NRC's or the district or the drain commissioner's office. You can find some of that also I've seen it where you've actually they've done analysis on tile drains by just looking at imagery because you can typically see the different patterns of tile drains, but that's not perfect. Now as for the percentage of nutrients that are leaving the tile drains. There's a lot of depends because it depends on the soil type, the amount of fertilizer, the type of fertilizer used, are there different best practices being put down and simply sometimes it's just nutrient management plans and there it but there is a lot of research happening out here in Michigan Ohio and a bit in in Minnesota as well southern Minnesota. So if you are I'll make sure that there's some information on tile drains in the resource.
Great, thank you. Moving on to a topic that's been on a lot of our minds in Michigan, PFA's.
What are some of the steps that a community could take if they're worried about PFA's in their water? If it may have maybe hasn't been tested and found yet but they'd like to get some testing done is there any kind of visual way to see if a stream or river might have PFO's in it?
Yeah, so that's a big that's a great question and it's a big one PFA's. So, the first thing always to do is confirm do you have it you know you don't want to be doing a lot of things before confirming having it. So I'm getting contacting EGLE to see if your community is on your drinking water within your community or other spots are on a list to be tested by the state, and then working with them if it's not or if it is to see one or when can something occur, or when is it planned to occur. As for I guess I'll finish that so then if you do have it this is where you can work you can look at that MPART Michigan PFA's Action Response Team. I hope that's what the acronym is MPART. If you put in MPART PFA's into Google you should be able to find that. They're going to have a lot of different resources and one of the things will be outreach. Outreach is really important. Open communication with your community about what's found in your water and how much and what does that mean to our knowledge.
So, because this is an emerging contaminant we don't necessarily have all the answers and so being open with that is important. Thank you Lois put in the the MPART website in the chat
just now. And it looks like that just went to panelists I'm gonna make sure that gets to attendees too.
Thank you. So, now visually speaking so in surface water
PFA's can do to turbulence on the water
can create a thick shaving cream like foam on the surface of water. So, that can be a visual indicator that you might have PFA's in your water body. What's hard to discern sometimes is that there's a natural foam that we probably all have seen if we've lived on, or if we've been on a river or lake on a windy day, or a stream that's rushing and that's where dissolved organic matter gets mixed up and beat up and creates a foam. But that foam typically has a little brownish tinge to it and not as sticky. Whereas PFA's foam can be it looks like shaving cream very white. There is a document and you can probably find it or you I know you can find it on MPART website where they show examples and some other characteristics where that can help identify if indeed that is a PFA's form. Excellent, thank you and we've got some links dropping into the chat pointing to the MPART website and other resources for PFA's and we'll make sure that those get captured for the resource roundup at the end of the webinar as well. Moving on to another one of those pesky emerging contaminants microplastics are there currently any paradigms for monitoring microplastics and drinking water and are there any standards for microplastics yet, or is it too soon? I don't know of any standards. I'm trying in drinking water interesting. So, most of my experience is in surface water for micro plastics and it's quite the difficult sampling that you need to do there because you need to dissolve all the other particles that can can be in there other than the plastic so you can count them. So, it's actually quite difficult. I'm not aware of
of in drinking water. I'm not aware,
but please feel free to contact me afterwards in an email and I can start I can look around. Great so we learned that harmful algal blooms are certainly a big issue for the Great Lakes especially for Lake Erie are they also a cause for concern on inland lakes?
Yes, so the one on the with Lake Erie we mentioned that one because it it really impacted our drinking water, so most of the time we're not getting our drinking water from inland lakes here in Michigan and so that's not the concern there. But we can be exposed by by swimming in the water body. It we can it can irritate our skin it could harm our pets or kill our pets certain algae can produce enough toxins that can kill your pet. It can make us sick by consuming it and there's I believe there's some evidence where also as wind blows across a algal bloom that's producing toxins it can get into an aerosol into the air and impact us in that way. So, yes there is a there is a concern for our inland uh waters and the big thing here is looking at preventative measures which keeps nutrients out of your water body. Great we've got just a few more minutes for questions we've got more in the box and we'll be able to get to but we'll see how many we can still hit. If I have a stream or river in my backyard or one where I like to go recreate is there a place a website a database where I might be able to find information about water tests that have been done there or any kind of impairments that might be associated with it? I think the best route there is to visit the EGLE website, so again that's the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and you may be able to find stuff there. But if not I think you could you would have a regional non-point source pollution staff for your region and there's a map available on EGLE and you can contact them to see if there's any impairments on the on there and what tests have been done.
Excellent, and one last quick question have there has it been any research or do you know anything about the effects of water softeners on chloride levels?
Yeah, there's some research out of Wisconsin University of Wisconsin there's a professor there and when she was looking at landscape level data on lakes. So this is for lakes not necessarily groundwater or streams. I think it wasn't as big of a contributor as everything else. I'm not entirely confident on that so I would want to get back to you on that so if you have further questions on that I'd be happy to find that research and send it to you. Excellent well thank you so much everyone for sending in those great questions like I said we had more in the box than we could get to right now but we'll be following up with those after the webinar and right now I'll pass it back to Mary to take us into the panel discussion. All right thank you very much everyone. Yeah thanks Erick that was really great lots of great questions from our participants glad to see everybody engaging in the conversation and Geneva thanks for moderating those questions. So, next up we are going to go and introduce our panelists we have three wonderful panelists joining us today they have a diversity of backgrounds and they come from different parts of the state and different
backgrounds. So, it's really great to have these three individuals with us. I'm just going to start with introductions and so first up I have Rich Bowman who currently serves as the Director of Policy for the Michigan chapter of The Nature Conservancy. He led the organization's Great Lakes Compact Implementation Technical Assistance team and served under the 2007 and 2014 Farm Bill teams since 2016. Rich has been a member of the Conference of Great Lakes Governors and premiers Great Lakes impact investment platform. In 2006 Rich was appointed by Governor Granholm to the Michigan Groundwater Conservation Advisory Council and in 2011 he was appointed by Governor Snyder to the Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on State Parks and Outdoor Recreation. He has also served for the past eight years as an appointee to the Michigan Timber Advisory Council. In 2009 he was an invited participant in the National Geographic Society USDA U.S. EPA work group to establish a national ecosystem services partnership. He has presented to groups across the United States on freshwater governance, environmental flow policy, and quantification of ecosystem services and in 2013 he presented on international water governance at the World Water Week in Stockholm. He has testified before numerous congressional and state legislative committees and has been appointed to over 20 legislative and administrative work groups. Prior to joining The Nature Conservancy staff in 2006 Rich worked for six and a half years as the Executive Director of the Michigan Council of Trout Unlimited. Rich has also served as a research associate with the Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University as the west Michigan regional staff representative for the Michigan Farm Bureau and as independent business consultant to numerous non-profit organizations. Rich has a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics from Michigan State University. He is a graduate fellow of the Michigan political leadership program. A water fellow with Michigan State University and co-led a 2019 water fellows program. He has helped to author several state and federal statutes including the Michigan groundwater withdrawal statute the Michigan non-metallic minerals mining statute proposition 20-1 amending the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and State Park Endowment Fund in the Michigan constitution and sections of the sustainable aquaculture and conservation titles of the 2007 and 2014 farm bills. So glad to have you with us Rich. Next up we have Marie McCormick. Marie is the Executive Director of the Friends of the Rouge. Marie leads Friends of the Rouge with nine years experience in non-profit leadership positions focusing on strategic planning, implementation, establishing solid organizational policies, modernizing their programming, and securing the organization's fiscal stability. She informs her work in various regional and local organizations including the Fort Rouge Gateway partnership, Water Advisory Council for the City of Dearborn, the Michigan Environmental Council's Policy Committee, and the Michigan Water Table just to name a few. Marie has been able to glean important perspective into local and regional water quality issues, climate change resiliency, and water infrastructure challenges. She is informed by her master's degree in sustainable communities from Northern Arizona University and Executive Certificate and transformational nonprofit leadership from the University of Notre Dame. Again welcome Marie glad to have your experience and expertise here and then our third panelist is Sarah Fronzcak. Sarah is an Environmental Management educator with MSU Extension. Sarah received a Master of Science in Ecology from Bowling Green State University. She's been working for MSU Extension for two years as an Environmental
Management educator based in Hillsdale County and previously Sarah was working as an engineering coordinator for a local municipality. She's been a biology instructor, a watershed coordinator, and a conservation technician. Sarah's interests are in water quality, nutrient management, and the interface of rural and urban spaces on water issues. So, again welcome all of our panelists. Before I get into asking you all your questions I did want to give you just a couple minutes each to maybe talk a little bit more about your background what I wasn't able to cover in your introduction. Things you might think the participants on our webinar would be interested in. So, first up we have um Mr. Bowman. Would you like to give us a little bit of your background? Sure, so my background was awfully long there it made me feel old listening to it. I think that
in listening to Erick's presentation and thinking about water quality the one thing that I would encourage all of the participants in this program over last week, this session, and the next one is we tend to think about all these characteristics of water. He talked about all these different attributes and contaminants and all that stuff and at The Nature Conservancy and throughout my work we really like to think about how water works and you know ultimately The Nature Conservancy was created to try to preserve and restore all of the biodiversity of the planet and one of the things that's truly interesting about our fresh water systems is that they are so diverse. We have cold water and cool water and warm water systems and they all function in different ways. And a lot of the challenges that we heard described, and I'm going to set toxics and contaminants aside, but a lot of the other challenges we heard described were because we have so altered the way a system works by the speed at which it flows, the volume, the timing, or the nutrient loads that we put into it that we've overwhelmed the natural capacity of the system to process and to manage these things and fundamentally altered the biology. And so we really approach our work with water and water quality in thinking about how a system ought to work and how we can make it work the way it was intended to. Great thank you Rich. I appreciate that. Miss McCormick would you like to go next? Sure, thanks Mary and thanks Rich that was I really liked how you characterized the way that you think about water. So it's been a true pleasure to work with Friends of the Rouge over the last four years growing and developing our ability to meet our mission. Our mission is to restore, protect, and enhance the Rouge River watershed through stewardship, education, and collaboration. So, I serve as the Executive Director for Friends of the Rouge. We are a non-profit or 501c3 organization that was created in 1986 in response to a demonstrated need to clean and restore southeast michigan's Rouge River. Which is a designated area of concern by the U.S. EPA, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. So the rouge has over 400 lakes and 570 miles of river streams and creeks. It's one of the most accessible rivers in the state with over 300 parks, 33 public golf courses, 27 natural nature preserves, we have over 20,000 acres of parkland and our organization leads efforts to educate both youth and adults about the causes and effects of river pollution and promote understanding of what steps that they can take to prevent the further degradation of the river and restore its health for future generations.
And so um just this morning I had the honor of standing beside many wonderful colleagues to cut the ribbon on a new park in southwest Detroi.t It's called the Fort Street Bridge park. If some of you have heard of it and it's located along the lower Rouge in southwest Detroit and I mentioned this because on October 9 1969 just downstream of this park the Rouge River caught fire and you know at one point in the mid 20th century there are over 82 million gallons of industrial waste a day pouring into the Rouge and Detroit rivers untreated. So, Erick had a few photos in the Rouge and the Cuyahoga fires in his presentation. I'm sure you remember but 51 years later through the collaborative efforts of political, municipal business, private citizens, and nonprofit partners alike the Rouge has literally transformed from a health hazard to a regional asset worthy of supporting recreational activities. Tthis park links to major greenway arteries like the Iron Belt Trail, Dowriver Link Greenways, the sort of in a way linking to the Joe Louis
Greenway, the Gordy Howe international bridge, and the Jefferson Avenue corridor. With plans for the future to connect the the Rouge Gateway trail and the lower Rouge River water trail and this park will feature a universally accessible kayak launch and a fishing boardwalk in the second phase. So, as legacy pollution is cleaned up and recreation can be considered creating trails and amenities that celebrate our water in the history will help refocus the region on the value of our rivers as natural resources and highlight recreation while interpreting past uses. So, I think it's just a it's sort of an interesting moment in time where we can actually look at the accomplishment of this collaborative work and you and your community have the power to transform you know these rivers, lake, streams into something that is an incredible resource and asset. So, imagine our children recreating on a river that once caught fire, that's incredible. So, we might have a lot of issues we face today but it's really important to take the time to celebrate our wins. Thanks. Thank you Marie very inspiring words. Miss Fronczak do you want to give us a couple minutes? Sure, you might think of me as the odd one out here. I'm sort of different in that I work with farmers and I help them meet their environmental goals in this changing world and the changing climate. So, most of the people that I work with are private landowners which is quite different than maybe some of the other perspectives. Most of my projects address soil health, waste management, energy generation, and conservation on farms as well as climate resilience, and water quality. So, I work with farmers we make goals and we help farmers achieve those goals.
I've also worked with planning commissions or municipal planners to try to work with projects that might benefit both private land owners and municipalities.
I guess when I think about water quality and the steps that we can take I see that there's a lot of partnerships that can be built between rural and urban spaces, that can build the infrastructure that we need to accomplish some of the things that Marie has done and that Rich is talking about.
Great again lots of lots of great context for us to start the panelist discussion. I really do appreciate all three of you being here today. So, just for the sake of the participants I will be asking a series of questions and then give the panelists an opportunity to answer. Not all the questions would be answered by every panelist just those that they feel confident in the background knowledge to answer those questions. So, let's go ahead and get started with our first question. I'd like to ask what are the most pressing water quality issues in your area?
So, Marie do you want to go first with that one. Sure, I'd be delighted to answer that question. So, as Erick mentioned and showed in some of his slides the Rouge watershed is a highly urbanized watershed. 90 percent of our wetlands have been removed and you know he did talk about that extensively in his q and a. So, that has a direct effect on the water quality in the Rouge. Additionally, in the 1970s over 5.8 miles of natural river was channelized into a four mile concrete channel. Some of you may know the concrete channel in the Dearborn and Belvindale, Allen Park, and southwest Detroit area to enable the build out of Fairlane mall. So, the location of which was actually a very rare remaining wetland that already functioned as flood control. So, unforeseen by planners and engineers at the time the whole project had been a costly disaster both ecologically and socially and dramatically changed the live experience for both humans and non-humans in this area for the worst and now the Army Corps of is is sort of looking to remove the concrete channel at a huge public expense. But you know unsurprisingly in southwest Detroit and parts of metro Detroit we see heavy heavy flooding especially in areas of highly concentrated pavement, low-lying highways, residential basements whose homes were built in flood plains, in wetlands, or on top of ghost streams. A ghost stream is a stream that may have historically been at the surface of the land and now is piped or sort of put into the sewer system. So, during major storm events water acts as a carrying agent for pollution that exists on the ground like car grease, and oil, road salt, pesticides, and even sediment and yes that's a considered a form of pollution that enter our surface water and cause harm to the life there.
So, pavement doesn't soak up water it acts like sort of like a high-speed funnel sloughing off excessively higher volumes of water than normal into your local rivers that result in scouring, destabilization of riverbanks.
So, all this pavement has removed our ability to store water during rain events and it's eliminated our wetlands that acted as our ecological kidney. And just like our kidneys act as a very efficient filter for ridding the body of waste and other toxic substances so to do our wetlands and unfortunately less than 10 percent of them remain in our on our watershed.
So, we see a lot of flushes of toxic pollution in our river. Additionally, the Rouge is very flashy for this reason. So, it fluctuates rapidly in terms of cubic feet per second that are flowing through the riverbed and so storm events plow away already unstable banks they fell large riparian trees and so in the Rouge we have both combined sewer systems and separated storm sewer systems and this plays into the fact that we have a highly paved watershed as well. So the Rouge does have one of the largest CSO in the country the hubble southfield CSO and so that is actually a solution. One of the solutions it's a gray infrastructure solution. CSO basins are really critical in intercepting untreated wastewater that discharge into the Rouge.
And so sanitary waste is combined with other materials that are carried off the surface during rain events and discharge into the river. So, when we have combined sewer overflows raw sewage is direct is discharged directly into the local surface water and I have seen and been witness to all sorts of fun things that float in and around after such an event. So, there are actually
152 NPDES's permits which authorize discharges from combined sewer overflows into the Great Lakes basin and in Michigan alone there's 33 NPDES's permits for CSO's which is actually an authorized legal discharge of pollution into the river. However, in the Rouge alone there's more than 50 uncontrolled CSO's in the Rouge and you can actually see a map of those locations on the Friends of the Rouge website therouge.org.
Yeah, so and another thing I just want to mention is that we have been seeing some peak high of fecal coliform in the lower Rouge during dry weather sampling, which is a really it's a major concern for surface water quality because that essentially tells us a story and the story is most likely that there's failing infrastructure, like clogged pipes or broken pipes which is also a major water quality issue that's not directly linked to some of the non-point source pollution that's coming in from those storm events. Great I'll stop there. Lots and lots of issues in the Rouge for sure. So, Rich what's your take on this question in your area? You know it builds on what Marie's saying. I think that the two pressing issues and again in Erick's presentation he talked about a lot of what I would say the indicators of the water quality problems are and for some to address those we have to get at the underlying drivers of those water quality problems. And really those two drivers are that we have fundamentally altered the way water flows across and through the landscape because of our human-built infrastructure and we need to build that infrastructure that's how we can live here we're not in any way proposing the solution is to get rid of everybody and go back to nature. But what we have to do is understand how the impacts of that water of those alterations drive our water quality problems, so that we can modify those alterations to address those water quality problems and that's really what Marie's talking about. A lot of what we've done is michigan is a very wet place you know i had a hydrologist once that told me you know the lower peninsula of Michigan and the Great Lakes that surrounded are basically a big stone bowl that's full of to the edge with water and dirt and the extra flows over at Niagara falls,
and it's a pretty accurate description of where we live. And so through the course of settling and making this a state where 10 million people can live we've you know we've got 32 roughly thousand miles of rivers and streams. We've probably got two and a half times that many linear miles of man-made ditches and nobody really knows how many miles of subsurface drain tiles and those things alter the way water flows through the landscape. Mostly what they do is they facilitate getting rid of it faster so we can dry things out. The only disadvantage to that is that that changes both the way nutrients get moved and the amount of time they have to be processed in the stream.
One of the things that was the most interesting to me about the ongoing situation in Lake Erie and I won't get the years quite right so excuse me for that but we had a really significant bloom and I think probably 12 or 13 somewhere in there.
The following year we had almost no bloom at all and the difference between those two years wasn't the amount of nutrients that the farmers put on their fields it was that year where we had a very slight bloom was a functional drought for most of the summer. We had an extremely dry year and so it's a combination of the inputs and how they get transported and the fact is many of our lakes and estuaries while they've always been the deposition zone for these nutrients. We've made it significantly worse because we've changed the flow regime. The other big issue we're facing is we had the opportunity to serve as part of the 21st century infrastructure commission in the wake of the Flint water crisis and we know that we probably have 800 million to a billion dollars a year of unmet infrastructure funding needs and those have real impacts on the communities that all of you serve, but they also have real impacts on both the sources of the water that we need to get our drinking water from not just for drinking but for all the things we use water for, and the receiving waters that receive those things afterwards. And so ultimately part of our water quality problem and the solution to our water quality problem is figuring out how to build and maintain the infrastructure that will allow us to not have such a significant negative impact on the ecological processes that are supported by our aquatic ecosystems.
Thank you Rich that's great insight. Sarah what are the pressing water quality issues in your area? So thinking about the western Lake Erie basin and the Saginaw Bay I really think that the algal blooms there have made a big impact on the kind of research that we do, and our research is telling us that in the western Lake Erie basin
that agriculture is a big source of the nutrients that end up in the lake can cause those blooms. So, I'm gonna say that one of the most pressing issues is nutrient management. So, when we work with farmers we talk to them about applying nutrients in appropriate ways at appropriate times and working with them to develop plans that make sense for their farm, but also for the environment. And then to kind of go off of what Rich is seeing the farm drains that are on these farms that not not just the county drains but also the privately owned drains and all the tiles that are associated with those areas
have to be maintained and the water that goes to those drains needs to be maintained. There are so many ways to do that and some things are more appropriate in other places and we can talk about those a little later, but I think the other thing is the rural and urban disconnect between the choices that we make for management. We don't really talk very well when it comes between private land and public land or municipalities and rural townships. It's kind of a mess when we make choices.
Thank you Sarah. So you all anticipated my second question very well so I think I'm going to skip past the second question. I was asking what things could be done differently we've already talked about infrastructure and some of the other things that can be done so how about this question how can local planners and officials prepare for increased volatile storms and higher temperatures resulting from climate change? Sarah did you want to take this one? Sure,
So, I think the first thing that came to mind for me was to support your local conservation districts and their efforts to provide education demonstration projects and large-scale application of best management practices that support resilience for climate change. These are organizations that are in place and they're poised to help you out. So, supporting those those organizations is something that's pretty easy to do right? You don't have to necessarily support them with straight up dollars but cost share or even just support letters is great. Supporting they're working with private landowners and outside the municipality through the drain commissioner or the public works person that's in your area to install green infrastructure and right designed gray infrastructure.
Those groups of people have more control over the water that comes into a municipality and that can be pretty impactful during a high water event which we see during climate change, or we are predicting more during climate change. So, I'm not really going to talk about high temperatures a whole lot so I don't know Marie if you're gonna talk about that.
Yeah Marie are things a little different in the urban areas or are there other things that people can do? I mean I think there's a lot of similarities I feel like policy at the national level has moved painfully slow in most countries, but urban areas have the authority to make meaningful change in land use and zoning, transportation, green space things like that.
I think that green infrastructure or like sort of a combination of green and gray can really help prepare for increased volatile storms. I think that they help mitigate overbearing effects of climate change like they manage flood risk, they help reduce the urban heat island effect, they lower building energy demands, they improve coastal resiliency, which yes the Great Lakes are a coast and they help reduce the energy needed to actually manage water. So, if you're removing it from the whole system you actually reduce the amount of cost that is born by the system. I was looking some stuff up and I saw a study in Portland where it actually showed a 67 cost savings by investing in green infrastructure over gray that includes sort of a riparian sort of a menu of options like riparian buffers, reforestation, conservation easements, upgrades to culverts and drain pipes just to name a few. There's other auxiliary benefits like carbon sequestration, increased property values. And I do want to mention like there was a report done by the Huron River Watershed Council, which I think I've given a link to MSU that documented the direct economic benefit of the river and the improved river in their watershed which was akin to about 53 million dollars in annual economic output, and 628 million dollars in added property value. Additionally I do think you know um local planners can really help move the needle with marine infrastructure by removing barriers or creating incentives to green infrastructure alternatives. So, in 2017 for example the city of Southfield adopted a green infrastructure ordinance and pledged ongoing support for the Paris Climate Agreement and so you can you can actually check that out. So just like doing simple amendments to your code is a nice way to promote these practices in your community. So, Brandy Siedlaczek
she's a board member of ours but she's also the stormwater manager for the city of Southfield might be willing to field any questions about how the city went about doing this work and she's also a board member of the Alliance of Rouge Communities.
Thanks Marie and actually I helped with that project in Southfield when they did their code audit for the green infrastructure so thanks for giving giving us a plug. So next u we have a question about best management practices for addressing storm water. So, Rich does The Nature Conservancy have any recommendations? So, we have several. We have a project in the Saginaw Bay watershed where we're working with growers on managing in some ways. I hate to use the word stormwater because it's all precipitation it only becomes storm water when it um hits the ground and becomes a problem for you and we also have a project team in the city of Detroit that's working on helping some folks deploy some green infrastructure demonstration projects. I think that the the one thing that I would say and I don't know the list of attendees so I don't know if we have any drain commissioners or staff of drain commissioners within our attendees but you need to be friends with your county drain commissioner. They have it is their job to manage this and they have the capacity to do that. You know a lot of folks don't know that the aside from the Michigan legislature the drain commissioner is the only elected official in the state of Michigan that has the ability to levy attacks against people's property without letting them vote on it it's because we recognize that in order for us to live here we have to manage water, and it's been that way since the late 19th century and everybody has both horror stories and love stories about drain commissioners. But that's what their job is, is to help us manage this. Green infrastructure we believe plays an important role but it also may not it's not the entire solution. We actually especially in urban areas it makes a huge difference in urban areas in infiltration and retention depending on your soil types and your site characteristics and everything else.
Ultimately when you put that much impervious surface in an area you're also going to have to have some gray infrastructure to manage water, but
in those areas again it's thinking about how without causing a flood you slow down the flow and retain the water so that you don't have big hydrologic peaks.
Great that's all really good information Rich glad The Nature Conservancy is working up there in the Saginaw bay area. Marie I know you've talked a little bit about stormwater already and Friends of the Rouge has a lot a lot of experience in that regard is there anything different that you wanted to add?
Besides reiterating Rich's comments on sort of a kind of a nice balance of green and gray infrastructure especially in urban areas. I think that one thing that is helpful to think about is making sure your community has a watershed management plan. These plans are really critical to finding funding to support some of this beneficial water quality improvement work.
You can find out if you have one through the EGLE website which is non-point source program 319 approved watershed plans and funding for green infrastructure is available in various ways. Two that you have to have a watershed management plan for to be eligible or is the Clean Michigan Initiative and the Federal Clean Water Act section 319 funds. There's a lot of private foundations and ERB Family Foundation has been a major supporter of GSI,
and there are links to both of those um that should be available for you as well.
But I think the last thing that I guess I'll leave you with is Friends of the Rouge is doing
more of a regional residential rain garden programming work to bring a comprehensive residential rain garden program to basically seven counties in southeast Michigan because we've come to understand that tackling these sort of water quality issues must be done at scale.
So, a goal of tens of thousands of rain gardens across southeast Michigan by 2035. and so you can check out some of the work that we've done so far on our website, but there's a lot of different types of creative ways that you can go about managing and addressing stormwater.
But I think watershed management plans definitely have one of those. Yeah and I know you sent us some really good links that we'll include in our follow-up email um for those watershed management plans as well as some funding options for people who might not have one of those plans in place already. So thank you for doing that. So, Sarah I imagine stormwater practices might be a little bit different in rural areas of our state do you have anything fun to share? Yeah Mary they are quite a bit different. So, when I think about best management practices for stormwater I think about the field is like the basic unit of how we apply those. So, in field best management practices are things like soil health practices, which increase the organic matter and allow that soil to soak up more water. Installing filter strips along ditches and streams to prevent nutrients from getting into the streams things like waterways and cover crops all those things are field practices and maybe they're not that important to a planner that's in a city but those are all things that we are working toward out in the rural landscape and we're always looking for good partners. So, again even if you're not interested in applying those things specifically just supporting grants is a really great way to help out. Then as we kind of go up from the field we think about drains and waterways. They should be stabilized and they should be allowed to have flood plains in the rural landscape that's how we're going to slow that water down once it gets out of the field. Inline storages could be added to manage that water
before it can be managed to prevent for flood prevention right? If the goal is flood prevention then we can put in line storage to to hold the water in case there is a flood threat. And then finally I think that culverts and bridges need to be looked at to be properly sized and aligned for an increased water load that we're expecting with climate change. So, when those um when those culverts and bridges are misaligned you're going to lose roads which is obviously a problem. But it also has impact on the in-stream uh sediment load nutrient load and the health of the wildlife industry so there's a lot of impacts when those aren't right .So, I guess though that's my my top five or whatever. Yeah well I do appreciate it because no matter where we're at in the state of Michigan stormwater is an issue we might address it differently depending on where we're at but definitely everybody should be looking at stormwater management as an a way to ensure our water quality. So next up my final question is thinking about money and how it might be allocated differently to help with flooding and stormwater infrastructure issues. I think Rich you had some thoughts to share here. Yeah it always comes down to the money I think that early on Erick talked about the challenge and you know this is what Sarah's group is is trying to or excuse me what um what Friends of the Rouge is trying to address is that you have to have mechanisms to coordinate at the watershed scale, or somebody doing something really good downstream can be completely overwhelmed by doing something bad upstream. It also is what Sarah is referring to when she's talking about rural urban cooperation because when you look at the location of many of our urban areas they are near the bottom of watersheds and often those upper parts of those watersheds are rural agricultural areas. And creating mechanisms that put conservation practices in place upstream that save communities downstream money is a great idea. We haven't figured out the mechanisms to do that yet, and so you know one of the ones that we've played with a little bit is a lot of communities on rivers struggle with periodic flooding. We certainly saw that exacerbated by the blowout of the dams on the Tidibiwassi but those communities struggle with flooding even if those dams have stayed intact and are there ways that we can build storage and watersheds above those communities where the water flows out into flood plains and comes back into the rivers more slowly with storm events like it was intended to do and somehow that money that we save those communities needs to help us finance the cost of creating those upstream storage or diversions. And it's a tough issue we haven't figured it out yet. Again the drain commissioners come the closest but they're really only starting to think about storage and retention in the last 10 or 15 years. Their job for 100 years is to get rid of the water faster. And so thinking about that you know we have a project right now called our ditch project we're doing with a number of drain commissioners where we're putting in buffer strips to reduce the amount of sediment flowing into drains. Which means it saves money because it has to be maintained less often and using that monetary savings to give a credit on the drain assessment to the property owners putting in those buffer strips. It's projects like that that will help us eventually cost effectively address these issues.
Definitely a lot for us to think about and we need to get creative that's for sure.
So, actually we we have about seven or eight minutes left for some additional questions from our participants and I've seen some questions coming in through the q and a and I just want to remind everybody if we don't have time to get to your question today we'll address them in the follow-up email. But Geneva do you want to field some additional questions for the panelists?
Certainly and as Mary said you can feel free to keep submitting things through the q and a box we'll try to get through whatever we can. Here's a question that somebody asked earlier they were wondering about graphs of habitat loss in and around Michigan's inland lakes and I'll sort of extrapolate the back end of their question are we seeing habitat loss and sort of water quality issues equally around the state are there certain areas of the state that are especially vulnerable or that we need to be especially kind of focusing our time and resources on protecting against habitat loss and water quality issues?
I don't have a good answer for you on that because the fact is while habitat loss can become a challenge in some places biological systems normally have one limiting factor and it often is not physical habitat. So, usually in Michigan because this is you know the glaciers only melted 10 to 15 000 years ago this is kind of a cold for the most part nutrient poor place that's why our streams have so much trouble processing these extra nutrient loads because it's not where they are in their evolution.
Our real risks are likely to alterations in the temperature regimes of our streams through having changes in the groundwater regime or otherwise
having. The other big one is that we just get excess nutrient loads beyond what the streams can process. In Saginaw Bay we did an analysis of what the limiting factor was for the biological communities and in about 70 percent of the streams it was the spring falling phosphorus
And I'll just add a little bit with in regards to lakes a resource if you go to the Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership. They have a conservation planning tool where you can actually look at
various aspects of lakes and one of them being habitat loss within the first I believe 100 meters potentially of the lake shoreline and you can look at your individual lakes in your area you can look at your county and see what lakes are going on there and there is different prioritization plans out there and so if you're curious about that I can help help guide there. But that's thing like if you're in a county that is your lakes or rivers or water bodies are heavily developed and there are a select few that are not you know then you can potentially prioritize those that are not developed you should be putting protection practices. Minnesota has been doing this for their cisco populations. These are fish that are require high water quality with high amounts of oxygen and cold water and they've been successfully working with private landowners to put in conservation easements within the watersheds on on and then therefore looking at climate resiliency through time and habitat resiliency through time.
Great thanks for weighing in with that. Do any of the other panelists want to jump in? I'm seeing mics remaining muted,
excellent. We have somebody wondering about senate bill 1124 indicating that it's about stormwater management utilities wondering
if Rich or if anyone else can comment on that bill at all? I can comment on that. So, we had a supreme court ruling it must be closing in on 20 years now called Bolt versus the City of Lansing, which created some specific tests in order for something to be called a utility and the reason that this is important is that any fee that you levy as local officials if it isn't a utility fee it's a tax. And you can't levy a tax unless you let your residents vote on it. And there was a subsequent court ruling in the City of Jackson versus the County of Jackson that created some more uncertainty related to how communities could legally formed stormwater utilities and the purpose of these bills. And this really grew out of a group organized five or six years ago by Jim Nash the water resources commissioner in Oakland County. The purpose of these bills is simply to provide clarity to local units of government on what they have to do to form a stormwater utility to have it meet the legal requirements established in the bolt case and to not be at risk for being sued for
basically levying a tax
without letting people vote on it.
Great thank you for that. So we'll end on one question, oh sorry did you want to comment on it.
Well I just I really appreciate Rich providing that sort of background and insight I think I'd be curious to hear a little bit more about senate bill two four and like where it is in uh the legislative process. I know that um MEC or Michigan Environmental Council has had some issues with it but I think it's such an important piece of possible legislation that would really open up a lot of funding to support some of these best management practices that we've been discussing this whole webinar. And I could respond to that a little bit and I agree it's not a perfect piece of legislation. I haven't seen a perfect one yet. I think part of the challenge with it was that it only got introduced recently and normally when bills get introduced this late in the session unless they're pretty simple they don't have much of a chance of passing. And I think it was introduced primarily as a as what those of us in the capitol referred to as a placeholder bill to let folks know that this is a really important topic that we want to talk about next legislative session. It's my hope and The Nature Conservancy has been supported for the last half a dozen years now of having legislation that clarifies for local officials what they have to do to create stormwater utilities in the wake of pole. It's my hope that another similar bill gets reintroduced early in the next session so that we have the time to have committee hearings and testimony and get things worked out so that it works for everybody and it's something that can be passed and adopted. Excellent and I think with that timing I will end the q and a session pass it back to Mary for some final comments. I do want to thank everybody for joining us today and another round of thank yous to Rich Marie Sarah Erick and Geneva for all of the q and a and great information. It's been a great webinar. I do want to before we go today recognize the financial funding that we've received from the ERB Family Foundation and the Pure Oakland Water. I also want to say a special thanks to the entire Water School team who've worked over the last six years to develop this program. We're only hearing from a small portion of those folks on our webinars but the lots of people behind the scenes who've contributed to that and also a thank you to our advisors who are helping us on the Michigan Water School Statewide Advisory Council. These webinars wouldn't be possible without all of their contributions, so again thank you everyone. And we have a long list of things that we've talked about today from road salt, wetland regulations, tile drain maps, PFA's, microplastics, and drinking water, the economics report from the Huron River Watershed Council, the Southfield green infrastructure code audit, watershed management plans, and funding for those. So lots of great information that will be sent out in about a week from today. So again thank you all for taking the time to join us today and have a good evening.