Building Consensus to Protect Michigan’s Groundwater

FLOW releases new groundwater report and story map today


The old saying, “out of sight, out of mind,” all too often characterizes Michigan’s approach to groundwater.

Understanding that Michigan residents and key stakeholders should value stewardship of all water, including groundwater, FLOW in January 2021 launched and convened the Michigan Groundwater Table composed of diverse membership and perspectives. After more than a year of work, FLOW is releasing a report today, and accompanying story map, on the Groundwater Table’s work.

The report, Building Consensus: Securing Protection of Michigan’s Groundwater, reflects the work of 22 knowledgeable and influential stakeholders from local government, academia, and regulatory agencies. It contains consensus findings about the status of Michigan’s groundwater and also recommendations on how to improve its protection. Although consensus was not achieved on all groundwater policy options, we are heartened by progress toward consensus on several recommendations related to:

  • Polluter pay
  • Private wells
  • Agricultural stewardship
  • Statewide septic code
  • Public education
  • Data tools.

Michigan’s groundwater is a critical part of Michigan’s present and future. Increasing population, a changing climate, and limited public funding for prevention and cleanup of contamination will continue to stress groundwater resources.

Groundwater Table members also agreed that Michigan’s groundwater is a “critical and often overlooked resource,” vital to the state’s public health, agriculture and other businesses, coldwater fisheries, stream ecology, and wetlands, and accounts for at least 25% of the total water inflow to the Great Lakes via groundwater inflow into tributaries. They also found that Michigan has underinvested in monitoring, mapping, and reporting groundwater quantity and quality.

The immersive story map, meanwhile, takes you on a visual journey from the groundwater basics to unique ecosystems, threats, and protection.

FLOW’s Commitment to Groundwater Protection

In a series of reports dating back to 2018, FLOW has called attention to the gap between the importance of groundwater to Michigan’s health and welfare and the state’s historically inconsistent groundwater policies. We have spotlighted groundwater because a significant percentage of the population knows and thinks little of it, even though groundwater provides drinking water, supports agriculture and industry, is critical to Michigan’s internationally renowned trout streams, and more.

The Building Consensus report concludes that Michigan’s groundwater is a critical part of Michigan’s present and future. Increasing population, a changing climate, and limited public funding for prevention and cleanup of contamination will continue to stress groundwater resources. Unless policymakers make a lasting commitment to groundwater protection and stewardship, Michigan will suffer from a degraded resource unable to serve the state’s needs.

The blueprint now exists for protecting Michigan’s groundwater—it is time to act on it.

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FLOW releases new groundwater report and story map today