Photo: Capitol of Michigan. Credit: David Marvin via http://capitol.michigan.gov/.
Editor’s note: Register today for FLOW’s March 21 groundwater webinar, “The Case for a Statewide Septic Code: Michigan Must Inspect Septic Systems to Protect Fresh Water.”
There is good news in the often-overlooked realm of groundwater protection in Michigan: millions of dollars proposed to study and protect Michigan’s vital underground resource. And FLOW is lifting it up during National Groundwater Awareness Week that runs through March 11.
If approved, Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s fiscal year 2024 budget proposal, on top of funding appropriated by the Michigan Legislature last year, will enable implementation of many or most of the groundwater data recommendations of the state Water Use Advisory Council (WUAC) to be implemented in the next year. The governor’s proposed budget includes:
- $23.8 million for the collection and management of data on Michigan’s groundwater. The Governor’s budget proposal notes this will fund activities that “collect data and conduct studies on the state’s underground aquifers.”
- Funding for the “modernization of legacy information technology systems,” specifically including groundwater protection.
- Investment in four new positions to handle a backlog of groundwater discharge permits, which limit pollutants allowed to be discharged.
The $23.8 million is in addition to $10 million the legislature appropriated and the governor approved last year to provide funds to address recommendations included in the 2020 Michigan Water Use Advisory Council report.
Proposed Funding Aligns with Michigan Groundwater Table Recommendations
In 2022, the Michigan Groundwater Table—convened by FLOW and comprised of 22 knowledgeable and influential stakeholders from local government, academia, and regulatory agencies—examined the state’s groundwater data needs, concluding, “It is difficult to manage a resource when basic data are lacking and poorly coordinated.”
The Groundwater Table found that improved data “will not only provide a means of informing and supporting water-related programs, but will also yield technical information, tools, data, assumptions, and decision endpoints used to assist water users in resolving and preventing water conflicts. In so doing, WUAC’s recommendations also will benefit the agricultural community and municipal, county, and township governments.” The Groundwater Table report, in turn, endorsed the Water Use Advisory Council recommendations.
Learn More about FLOW’s Groundwater Program
FLOW is working to inform Michiganders about the critical importance of protecting the state’s groundwater resources. FLOW’s articles, reports, webinars, story map, and podcasts have stressed that while groundwater is out of sight, Michigan’s residents, communities, businesses, organizations, and government cannot afford to let it slip out of mind.
Did you know that groundwater accounts for at least 25% of the total water inflow to the Great Lakes via groundwater inflow into tributaries? Groundwater is vital to Michigan’s public health, agriculture, economy, wetlands, stream ecology, coldwater fisheries, and the Great Lakes.
Michigan depends on groundwater as a source of drinking water for more than 4 million people, relying on more than 1 million private wells. There are an estimated 24,000 contamination sites in Michigan, most involving groundwater pollution. One site alone has contaminated 13 trillion gallons of groundwater. Michigan is the only state that does not have a law protecting groundwater (and surface water) from failing septic systems.
FLOW’s groundwater policy recommendations include increased funding of groundwater data collection and analysis, a law regulating septic systems, bans on chemicals that frequently contaminate groundwater, monies to enable well owners to get tests on the quality of their water, and funding for cleanup of groundwater contamination.
Learn more on about FLOW’s program to protect Michigan’s groundwater—the Sixth Great Lake beneath Michigan’s ground that is vital to the quality of life and prosperity of Michigan and the Great Lakes.