Blog Posts

Blog posts by FLOW team and guest writers

Shrinking Our ‘Water Footprint’ to Protect the Great Lakes

Why should residents of the Great Lakes region and its abundant freshwater be concerned about their water footprint and take steps to conserve water? Living among water riches does not exempt us from responsible environmental stewardship.

Earth Day Reflection: Beach Cleanup at North Bar Lake Nets 89 Pounds of Single-Use Plastics and Other Trash

FLOW teamed up with Sleeping Bear Surf, Friends of Sleeping Bear, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Surfrider NoMi, and S’well for an April 22 Earth Day Beach Cleanup at North Bar Lake. The event drew a team of 68 passionate people of all ages from as far north as Petoskey and as far south as Ann Arbor, and included the Traverse City Central girls tennis team, which chose to participate as their team bonding activity. The trash collected, and retrieved from participants, weighed a whopping 89 pounds!

Know the Source of Your Water—During Drinking Water Week, and Every Week

During Drinking Water Week, recognized May 1-7 by the State of Michigan and nationally, filling knowledge gaps is a critical priority. Knowing the source of your drinking water is crucial, and so is knowing about threats to its safety and legal and environmental defenses to prevent its contamination.

An Earth Day Review: The Michigan Environmental Protection Act in 2022

One of the leading champions and practitioners of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) has been FLOW’s founder, Jim Olson. For 50 years, he has put MEPA to work in the courts and administrative processes, defending wetlands, streams, flora and fauna, and human health.  Jim has adeptly used MEPA to protect the Great Lakes and its tributary rivers and streams, vindicate indigenous treaty fishing rights, and limit Nestlé’s withdrawal of Michigan groundwater.

The Geography of Hope Is Anchored in Our Precious Great Lakes

In his 1960 Wilderness Letter, conservationist and author Wallace Stegner famously coined the phrase “geography of hope,” referring to the impulse that led Americans to the wilderness idea. Now, in 2022, comes another prophet of hope, Maude Barlow. A lifelong and world-renowned champion of water, Maude has authored a book built on her career of activism. Its title, appropriately, is “Still Hopeful: Lessons from a Lifetime of Activism.” FLOW will host a livestream book event featuring Maude Barlow on Wednesday, June 15.

Liz Kirkwood Reflects on the Importance of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement After 50 Years

Friday, April 15, marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement–a deep and lasting commitment between the two nations to restore and protect the greatest collection of fresh surface water on the planet. A key institution in the execution of the Agreement is the Great Lakes Water Quality Board, which advises the International Joint Commission. Liz Kirkwood, FLOW’s executive director, is a U.S. appointee to the 28-member binational board. Here are her thoughts on the Board’s role under the Agreement in protecting the lakes.

Evaluating the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement on its 50th Birthday

When Lake Erie algae blooms worsened to a crisis in the 1960s, Canada and the United States shared the problem—but no mechanism to combat it jointly. Out of that gap came the binational Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Signed 50 years ago this Friday by Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and U.S. President Richard Richard Nixon in Ottawa on April 15, 1972, the pact embraced the reality that Great Lakes water flows across the international boundary and that only through joint effort can the lakes be restored. FLOW asks the question: Has it worked?

What the Big Water Infrastructure Law Means for Michigan

On March 30, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law a $4.7 billion bill that includes almost $2 billion for water infrastructure.  Overwhelming majorities of the State House and Senate approved the bill on March 24. Relying heavily on federal COVID-19 relief and infrastructure dollars, the legislation funds wastewater and drinking water projects, efforts to curb… Read more »

Our Drinking Water Lacks the Protection It Deserves

Acclaimed author and FLOW Senior Advisor Dave Dempsey stands on the shore of Lake Michigan’s West Grand Traverse Bay. Editor’s note: This opinion article was originally published on April 2, 2022, in the Lansing State Journal. By Dave Dempsey A natural resource on which nearly half the population of Michigan depends every day is one that… Read more »

“Leave the Oil in the Ground … Let the Rivers FLOW”

If you tuned into WNMC, the public radio station at Northwestern Michigan College, recently you may have heard Kurt Westie interview FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood on the air. Westie, a singer-songwriter and member of the band “The North Carolines,” wrote a song during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown titled, “Leave the Oil in the Ground”—an artistic call to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac. He spoke to FLOW about his environmental inspiration, his interest in FLOW, and his most recent album.