Michigan’s Great Lakes and Freshwater: Much to Protect

Sometimes Michiganders take for granted the abundance of water that surrounds us and flows beneath us. In the midst of Michigan Great Lakes and Fresh Water Week (August 8-16), reflecting on that endowment is timely.

We often forget that a large proportion of Michigan is underwater. Considering only the land area of Michigan, it’s the 22nd largest state; add in the more than 38,000 square miles of land underwater that belongs to Michigan in four of the five Great Lakes, and Michigan vaults to 11th place. In fact, Michigan has more land underwater than Indiana has above water. These lands and the waters over them are protected by the public trust doctrine and are to be protected in a manner that does not impair public uses.

The sheer size of Lake Superior is also not to be taken for granted. The largest lake by surface area in the world, Superior is as large as the other four Great Lakes—plus three additional Lake Eries.

Groundwater is often overlooked because we see it only when we use it. But it supplies 45% of Michigan’s population with drinking water, and the volume of groundwater in the Great Lakes basin is equivalent to that of Lake Huron—making it, in FLOW’s analogy, the Sixth Great Lake.

Michigan has over 36,000 miles of streams and rivers, 11,000 inland lakes, and approximately 6.5 million acres of wetlands (down from approximately 10.7 million acres before European settlement began).

Finally, Michigan has about 3,300 miles of Great Lakes shoreline. (For comparison, the flight distance from Detroit to Los Angeles is approximately 2,000 miles.)

Michigan Great Lakes and Fresh Water Week is designed to encourage the public to take direct action to protect our waters. What will you do?

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