Michigan’s Water Legacy

“This couldn’t be just a lake. No real water was ever blue like that. A light breeze stirred the pin-cherry tree beside the window, ruffled the feathers of a fat sea gull promenading on the pink rocks below. The breeze was full of evergreen spice.”

— Dorothy Maywood Bird, “Mystery at Laughing Water”

2018 should be the year that Michigan recommits itself to protecting its water better than any other state does.  There is hope out there, if you look closely.

On Sundaythe Detroit Free Press observed that when Michiganders are asked what defines Michigan, they almost invariably cite water and the environment. Water is our identity. Water surrounds us and water flows through our state.

That’s why policies that have been pursued in recent years by politicians in Lansing are so out of step with the character of our state. The Flint drinking water disaster is just one of many serious offenses against our water legacy. The failure of the state to shut down the antiquated Line 5 petroleum pipelines at the Straits of Mackinac, Michigan DEQ’s recent authorization of a 60% increase in Nestlé’s water extraction operation, proposed legislation granting automatic approval to large agricultural water withdrawals and even worse legislation that would grant veto power over DEQ’s rulemaking to polluters are all examples.

This is not right for Michigan. This is not what Michiganders want.

The answer to the problem of poor state water policy is in the hands of all of us. If we educate ourselves on these issues and communicate with elected officials, nothing can stop us from restoring Michigan is leadership. It’s that simple, and that difficult. It requires sacrificing a little time, and making an effort. But over the decades, the lesson of Michigan’s environmental history is that when the people lead, the politicians follow.

It is entirely possible that within a year, if all goes well, the people of the state will unite behind a common sense water agenda and use the legislature as an instrument to enact it. That will mean funding for clean, safe and affordable drinking water, restoration of the Great Lakes, protection of our wetlands, and clear public control of the water that we own as a people.

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