Tag: Public Trust

Court upholds permit denial for private boat basin and channel on Long Lake

Citizen action and public engagement safeguards Michigan waters

Most everyone familiar with the beauty and majesty of Long Lake regard it as an exceptional example of the stunning natural features that are so abundant in Northwest Lower Michigan. The largest lake in Grand Traverse County and the headwaters of the Platte River, Long Lake harbors five exquisite islands that enhance every lakeshore view and vista.

Recently, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) received an application for the construction of a boat storage basin that would significantly impair Long Lake’s ecology, shoreline, and wetlands. The proposed project would entail dredging 292 cubic yards of bottomland materials to create a private entrance channel 88 feet long and 33 feet wide.

The dredged channel would provide connecting access to the inland boat basin, requiring the excavation of more than 3,200 additional cubic yards of material landward of the ordinary high water mark. In addition, the proposed project would include a 40-foot-long by 5-foot-wide boardwalk, supported by helical piers, to be constructed across 200 feet of wetlands.

EGLE denied the permit based on those impacts, as well the determination that the dredging would disturb fish habitat and interfere with littoral currents. The permit applicant, the Carrie C. Barnes Trust, appealed, much to the consternation of neighboring lakefront property owners. EGLE’s administrative law judge (ALJ) affirmed the permit denial in every particular.

When the Barnes Trust appealed the ALJ’s decision to EGLE’s Environmental Permit Review Commission (EPRC), FLOW was asked to weigh in. After reviewing the extensive record, FLOW provided detailed comments on the facts and applicable law. The EPRC unanimously upheld the ALJ’s decision.

But the Carrie C. Barnes Trust wasn’t done. The trust filed yet another appeal to the 13th Circuit Court in Grand Traverse County.

The good news is that on Tuesday, April 9, Judge Charles M. Hamlyn affirmed EGLE’s permit denial.

As a result, a project that would have done significant, permanent harm to Long Lake has been averted. And the citizens who would have been most impacted successfully joined together in concerted action to maintain the health, character, and ecology of Long Lake. FLOW commends their efforts and is proud to have supported them.

FLOW’s Legislative Recommendations for Michigan’s 102nd Legislature

PDF DOWNLOAD: FLOW Legislative Recommendations for 102nd Legislature

As a non-partisan, nonprofit law and policy center, a key component of our mission is to help Michigan’s elected leaders uphold their duties under Article IV, Section 52 of the state constitution, the Michigan Environmental Protection Act, and the public trust doctrine to protect the waters of the state from pollution, impairment, and destruction. Our policy recommendations are responsive to these legal duties, the best available science, and pragmatism.

To fulfill its legal duties in 2024, the 102nd Legislature should prioritize the enactment of four bills

1. Statewide Septic Code


Michigan is the only U.S. state without a uniform septic code governing the construction, maintenance, and inspection of septic systems. As a result, roughly 338,000 failing septic systems are polluting ground and surface waters with human fecal microbial waste. Extensive research by Michigan State University sampled 83% of the river systems in the Lower Peninsula and found human fecal contamination in 100% of river system samples. The study also found that the primary source of microbial contamination was substandard, failing, or nonexistent septic systems. In addition to harming our natural resources, this septic contamination poses a serious public health problem to the drinking water of nearly 4 million Michiganders who rely on private wells.


FLOW is working with a diverse coalition that includes public health agencies, EGLE, septage haulers, SEMCOG, MEC, MML, MAC, and other important organizations to address technical issues that are critical for the successful implementation of a statewide septic code. Strategies to overcoming more than 30 years of legislative gridlock are: (1) establishing a reasonable inspection schedule; (2) ensuring county health departments have sufficient resources to administer inspections; and (3) providing financial assistance to septic system owners who may not be able to afford the cost of repairs or replacements. Michigan’s legislature has the opportunity to accomplish what prior legislatures have been unable or unwilling to do—set legal standards for the reasonable oversight of onsite wastewater treatment systems, as every other state has done. Enacting legislation will help identify failing systems, protect groundwater and drinking water wells, support property values, and reduce contaminated wastewater migrating to our lakes, rivers, and streams.

2. Polluter Accountability


The Michigan Legislature has enacted a number of polluter entitlement laws that prevent state agencies from adequately protecting water resources. These legislative actions include:

  • Elimination of the “polluter pay” law (1995), which effectively shifts the cost of cleaning up contaminated sites (including state waters) from the entities that caused the pollution to the taxpayers that are harmed by it.
  • Reliance on “institutional controls” (2018), which has allowed polluters to leave more than 3,000 legacy sites and new releases of contamination in state waters subject to use restrictions, rather than clean them up.

As a result of these and other polluter entitlements, Michigan now has 24,000 known contaminated sites, including thousands of known and unknown sources of groundwater and surface water contamination. Almost half of these sites are “orphaned” sites with no known responsible party, resulting in the state being responsible for assessing and remediating these sites without adequate funding.


Proposed bills would hold polluters accountable for the pollution they create and the ensuing harm that it causes. The Polluter Pay Accountability Act will serve to transform Michigan from the Rust Belt to the Blue Belt, with overwhelming public support and a robust coalition backing it.

3. Stormwater Utilities


Michigan has already suffered immense financial losses due to flooding, and it’s predicted that damages will only rise with the expected increased frequency and severity of storm events. The consequences of flooding are harsh and include harmful algal blooms and chemical pollution, which in turn can pose serious public health risks and trigger beach closures. According to the Western Kentucky University Stormwater Utility Survey, Michigan has a mere twelve stormwater utilities (SWUs), while Wisconsin boasts over 200; and Minnesota, Ohio, and Indiana each have over 100. It’s crucial that we take action to increase the number of SWUs in Michigan to prevent further damage, ensure the safety of our communities, and build climate resilience.


Adopting stormwater utilities has emerged as a widely accepted policy approach to tackle this issue. The Clean Water Act mandates municipalities to minimize water pollution from surface runoff. Michigan has so few SWUs in large part because of the 1998 Michigan Supreme Court case, Bolt v. City of Lansing, which held that Lansing’s stormwater service charge was structured as an illegal tax and not a “user fee.” FLOW is collaborating with key stakeholders to develop a Bolt-compliant stormwater management utility act that will protect our environment, economy, and water resources. By passing this type of legislation, we can effectively manage stormwater runoff, mitigate flooding risks and beach closures, build climate-resilient infrastructure, and ensure that we have clean water for our families and future generations.

4. Michigan Public Water Trust Act


Private corporations presently extract and sell public water for hundreds of millions of dollars in profit each year while paying virtually nothing to the state. Michigan has, in effect, allowed a publicly owned natural resource to be commodified. Consistent with Michigan’s long established jurisprudence, the law should recognize that Michigan waters are a public trust resource. Moreover, with a large and increasing number of Michiganders in both urban and rural communities unable to afford to pay their water bills and facing the prospect of water shutoffs, our laws should provide assistance to these communities.


In the wake of the Flint lead crisis, the Detroit water shutoffs, and the Nestle 2016 water grab, FLOW authored model legislation to protect water quality, advance water equity, ensure that the waters of the State remain a public resource, and annually provide communities and water utilities with over $250 million in annual funding to address water affordability and infrastructure needs. Modeled after the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Michigan Public Water Trust Act holds the waters of Michigan as a public trust, designates our citizens as the beneficiaries, and requires the government to act as the fiduciary and to ensure that public trust is protected from harm, impairment, and appropriation.

Large-Volume Groundwater Withdrawals and the Public Trust

A fish kill in Oregon may seem to have little to do with Michigan waters – but if you look closely there is a close connection in law.

As the result of large-volume groundwater withdrawals like that in Oregon’s Deschutes River, western states have documented the serious impairment of streams, their ecosystems, fish, and the public right to fish. Michigan should also undertake this same type of documentation in order to prevent the loss of our own water resources and important public rights in our lakes and streams.

This kind of robust data collection and information can show the connection between groundwater withdrawals and their causal impact on our public trust resources and protected public uses like fishing, canoeing, and swimming. 

Faced with such factual and scientific clarity, most state courts (Wisconsin, Arizona, California, Hawaii) are readily expanding public trust law to limit groundwater withdrawals that diminish flows and levels and water quality on lakes and streams, and cause harm to fish and fishing or other protected uses.

In Michigan, the Supreme Court in Schenk v City of Ann Arbor recognized over 100 years ago that it was unlawful under the common law of groundwater for a landowner—in that case a city—to withdraw and divert water off-tract if this measurably diminished the flow or level of a creek, stream, pond, or lake, or interfered with others’ riparian uses. 

Michigan’s Constitution, article 4, section 52, declares that our state’s water and natural resources are of paramount public concern and interest. Michigan’s groundwater law and the Great Lakes Compact recognize that groundwater, lakes, and streams are a singular hydrological system. There is no ethical, scientific, or legal reason why the impairment of public trust resources or interference with public rights and uses of our lakes should not be ruled unlawful by our courts in Michigan under the common law public trust doctrine.

EGLE’s denial of permit for Long Lake private private marina upheld

The Environmental Permit Review Commission (EPRC) recently made an important decision affecting inland lakes and the public trust doctrine in Michigan.

In a case involving the proposed construction of a boathouse, boat basin, and dredged entrance channel on the 3-acre lakefront property on Long Lake in Traverse City, the EPRC upheld the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)’s decision upholding EGLE’s decision to deny the permit application based on credible evidence that the proposed dredging would cause adverse impacts to fisheries and recreational fishing aspects of the public trust, as well as fish and wildlife.

FLOW submitted public comments along with the leading citizen group, Lovers of Long Lake, in support of EGLE’s decision to deny the permit grounded in public trust violations and the applicant’s failure to present feasible and prudent alternatives. (Download our comments (PDF).)

Water: Essential for Life, Victim of Politics

By Jim Olson, FLOW founder and senior legal advisor

Recent reports show that four decades ago, Congress was advised that citizens in our cities and towns would face lead poisoning from lead pipes in municipal drinking water systems. Nothing was done. The failure of Congress to address this crisis then and now is a window into the collapse of our society’s shared view that government exists for the common good of all.

A recognized research scientist advised Congress in the 1980s that citizens in our cities and towns would be exposed to lead in drinking water. But as with tobacco, asbestos, agent orange, PFAs, and climate change – the list goes on – government leaders sat and sat and sat again on the lead poisoning threat. Imagine, Congress didn’t act for forty years to address something as fundamental to life and health as drinking water, and it did not act until the lead-poisoning of residents in Washington D.C., the City of Flint, and elsewhere boiled into national outrage.

Behind the lead poisoning and similar health issues is the failure of Congress to restore federal grant funding to communities across America. Beginning in the late 1980s, Congress halted federal grants, monies that had made municipal drinking water safe and affordable since the early 1970s. By the mid-1990s, federal aid turned into massive loans that shifted the financial burden to cities and towns and their resident ratepayers to pay for their drinking water.

The result: grossly unaffordable water bills and a plague of deteriorating drinking water systems, all dumped on the backs of the poor and middle class. This outcome is not surprising given that in 1977 federal funding provided 63% of funding for water infrastructure systems in the United States. But by 2014, this had fallen to 9% – with most of the funding coming in the form of loans to be repaid by local ratepayers.

Politicians too often wait to do anything until there is an emergency or crisis. Then they drag their feet until hauled into court or public pressure becomes too strong to ignore. By the time an emergency exists, the damage is devastating and irreparable, and the costs to fix the problem are magnitudes higher than the cost if the problem had been met head on in the first place. Rather than “win-win,” our leaders chose “lose-lose.”

In the 1980s, deregulation, neoliberalism, so-called free markets and tax cuts, heavily tilted toward the wealthy, became more important to presidential administrations and leaders on both sides of the political aisle than the safety of citizens. Now, this bury-the-problem disease is endemic.

Water is public, not owned by anyone. Water is held and managed by states as sovereign for their people. Why? The reality is that water is essential to life and health and serves everyone. Water must not become the victim or servant of political self-interests and ideology.

A conversation with DNR Director M. Scott Bowen

Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed M. Scott Bowen as Director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in September 2023. 

Bowen served as the Commissioner of the Michigan Lottery from January 2008 to February 2017. He also served as the Director of Office of the State Employer and was elected to two terms on the Grand Rapids City Commission.

FLOW asked the DNR director for his views on his new job and priorities.

What do you see as the primary challenges the Department faces?

The challenges I see are built around our most urgent needs in resource management. This includes making sure we are managing for, and being part of the solution to, climate change. We also need to make sure we’re continuing to address the problem of invasive species, and we need to make sure we are paying close attention to fish and wildlife health. Water is critical to our state, and the DNR can help by making sure we protect and enhance water quality through wetland acquisitions, easements and restoration.  We can also restore river connectivity by removing dams where appropriate. We need to continue to expand the DNR workforce and customer base to be reflective of all Michigan’s residents. 

We have a wealth of public lands in Michigan, and we need to make sure we’re taking proper care of those. The same is true of all the infrastructure the DNR manages, from our state parks to our fish hatcheries and trails. Making sure we manage all that infrastructure well is essential. I want to make sure the department has the right level of sustainable funding to accomplish all those goals, so we need to continue to be creative in the way we approach that challenge. I’m sure I’ll identify other priorities as my time in the department continues. 

What has surprised and/or pleased you most about DNR in your early days as Director?

I’ve certainly been pleased by the quality and commitment of the staff. I’ve always admired and respected the work of the DNR, but I didn’t realize until I arrived how many smart, capable people there are working for the department. I’m new to this work, so having those people surround me has been a great support as I get up to speed on the operations of the department and begin to form ideas about what I’d like to accomplish. 

Traditionally, some outside constituencies have often seen a conflict between resource protection and economic development. Which do you think should get more emphasis?

I think it’s both together. The DNR is installing solar arrays at our state parks, fish hatcheries and on other public land. We’re continuing to install electric vehicle charging stations at state parks and other locations to support cleaner energy. Those new technologies are going to create jobs, which is one of the Governor’s stated goals in her Mi Healthy Climate Plan. We want to support and advance that effort in our work. 

What role do you believe DNR plays in defending public trust resources?

Protecting and managing the resources that are held in trust for the people of Michigan is the central role of our agency. We are just temporary stewards of the forests, lakes, streams, fish, wildlife, public lands, history and culture that belong to the people of the state. One of the reason I agreed to do this job is to make sure those resources are left in better shape than we found them for our kids and grandkids.

Defending Public Trust Rights to Enjoy Indiana’s Lake Michigan Shoreline

Guest authors: Kim Ferraro and Kacey Cook, attorneys at the Conservation Law Center

In the 2018 Gunderson case, the Indiana Supreme Court held that Indiana’s Lake Michigan beaches are, and always have been, held in trust by the State as public trust resources, with State ownership extending from the natural ordinary high water mark (where the dune grass starts) all the way to the submerged lakebed.

Save the Dunes, Indiana’s oldest environmental organization, represented by the Conservation Law Center, intervened in the Gunderson case to ensure those public trust rights are protected. Since then, we have been fighting together to protect those same public lands so that future generations will be able to enjoy them too.

The latest battle has moved to the regulatory arena, where we are stepping in to make sure that the Hoosier State actually enforces its own public trust laws and regulations.

Presenting unique challenges, Indiana’s Lake Michigan’s shoreline hosts highly industrialized ports and factories alongside sections of pristine dune ecosystems sheltered within the state and national park. The cause of erosion along this stretch of beach. Who is responsible for addressing it has long been a source of conflict and controversy. The Port of Indiana’s interruption of natural sand accumulation has exacerbated erosion along the beaches to its west, a trend made worse by increasingly severe and frequent storms and fluctuations in the Lake’s water levels.

The Town of Ogden Dunes, which sits along this impacted stretch of beach, wants to finish building a massive armor-stone revetment, which, if allowed, would span the Town’s one-mile stretch of beach and effectively frustrate public access and use along the shoreline. Unfortunately, the Indiana DNR issued a permit allowing completion of the stone wall in June of this year.

Phase I of the Ogden Dunes Revetment (July 27, 2023, E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune).

Before approving seawalls and revetments like this, DNR is required by state law and regulation to assess the impacts on navigation, the environment, neighboring properties, and coastal dynamics. The DNR is also required to ensure that these hard structures will not violate the public trust, and if they do, that compensatory measures are taken to mitigate those violations. None of that happened with DNR’s approval of the Town’s stone blockade.  

Accordingly, Save the Dunes appealed DNR’s approval for failing to evaluate the serious threats the structure imposes on the public trust and surrounding ecosystems. In fact, the agency could not have evaluated these impacts because it failed to determine the location of the boundary between public trust and private land, otherwise known as the natural ordinary high water mark. 

The National Park Service also opposes the Town’s plans because of the devastating impact on the surrounding Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Based on extensive study of the problem, the NPS confirmed that annual beach nourishment is a more sustainable alternative that would protect the lakeshore and its fragile ecosystem. 

Save the Dunes’ appeal of DNR’s decision is vitally important. 

If Indiana’s public trust laws are not translated into sound regulation and effective enforcement, our collective rights to enjoy Lake Michigan, its beaches, and its natural beauty will be reduced to a centuries-old promise made hollow. 

For more information on the adverse impacts of seawalls, revetments, and other shoreline hardening structures in the Great Lakes and available alternatives, click here (PDF).

For more information on the Conservation Law Center, Save the Dunes, and the Ogden Dunes case, visit: https://conservationlawcenter.org/blog/press-release-save-the-dunes-challenges-state-for-violating-the-public-trust

For more information on the Gunderson case and the Indiana Public Trust Doctrine, visit:  https://conservationlawcenter.org/publictrust.

New York Lawmakers Introduce Bill Based on FLOW’s Model ‘Public Water, Public Justice’ Act

By Zach Welcker, FLOW Legal Director

FLOW Legal Director Zach Welcker

New York State Senator Rachel May and Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas have introduced companion legislation to enact the Public Water Justice Act, a bill derived from FLOW’s (For Love Of Water’s) model Public Water, Public Justice Act. The proposed legislation, S.238A and A.5104, prohibits the sale of waters of the state unless otherwise specifically authorized and establishes a public water justice fund for royalties collected from persons or entities authorized to sell waters of the state. The fund would be used to achieve a suite of public health and environmental benefits in the State of New York.

New York’s Public Water Justice Act incorporates concepts set forth in FLOW’s Public Water, Public Justice Act—comprehensive model legislation drafted by Jim Olson and FLOW’s legal team in response to the water shutoffs in Detroit and the Flint water crisis. In those cases, many residents were not only denied public water but also forced to buy bottled water from private companies who obtained state-owned water for next to nothing. 

FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood

“It is gratifying to see this legislation move forward in a sister Great Lakes state,” said FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood. “It makes no sense to allow water bottlers to appropriate our public water, sell it for huge profits, without any benefits accruing to the public.”

Liz Kirkwood, FLOW’s Executive Director, said that FLOW’s legal team has been working with New York senate and assembly staff to enact the bill into law. “It is gratifying to see this legislation move forward in a sister Great Lakes state,” Kirkwood said, “It makes no sense to allow water bottlers to appropriate our public water, sell it for huge profits, without any benefits accruing to the public.”

Jim Olson, FLOW’s Founder and Senior Legal Advisor

Jim Olson, the founder of FLOW, who drafted the legislation, stated, “At the end of the day, FLOW works to foster equitable public policy for the common good. With the loss of access to public water from pollution and climate change, underscored by the recent crises in Jackson, Mississippi and hurricane Ian, laws like New York’s proposed Public Water Justice Act will assure public funds from public water to vindicate  the public’s right of access to safe water.”

“At the end of the day, FLOW works to foster equitable public policy for the common good,” said Jim Olson, the founder of FLOW, who drafted the legislation.

While it is unclear how much revenue the proposed legislation would generate in New York, Michigan would raise approximately $250 million per year if it enacted similar legislation.

Combating CAFO Pollution

By Zach Welcker, FLOW Legal Director

On February 16, 2023, FLOW (For Love Of Water) and 10 other environmental groups filed an amicus brief asking the Michigan Supreme Court to strike down an appellate court ruling that prevents the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (“EGLE”) from fulfilling its duty to protect Michigan’s waters from wastes generated by concentrated animal feeding operations (“CAFOs”). CAFOs are essentially industrial livestock operations masquerading as farms. They put meat on the table by employing a process that is equal parts cruel to animals and destructive to the planet.

FLOW Legal Director Zach Welcker. (Photo by John Robert Williams)

A single, large CAFO produces one-and-a-half times more untreated waste than the human sanitary waste produced by the cities of Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Saginaw, Traverse City, and Warren combined.

Our amicus or “friend of the court” brief focuses solely on curbing CAFO pollution. There are roughly 300 CAFOs in Michigan. A single, large CAFOs produces one-and-a-half times more untreated waste than the human sanitary waste produced by the cities of Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Saginaw, Traverse City, and Warren combined.

In order to avoid the costs of transporting all of this untreated waste for proper disposal, CAFOs spread what they can on their land under the auspices of crop fertilization. If they run out of room on their own land, CAFOs “manifest” their untreated waste for disposal on someone else’s field. Plants don’t need or absorb all of the nutrients and contaminants in the waste, so much of it runs off into Michigan’s streams, rivers, and lakes. This is why Lake Erie now turns green with toxic algal blooms every summer and E. coli contamination is widespread in our waterways.

CAFOs are a key reason “why Lake Erie now turns green with toxic algal blooms every summer and E. coli contamination is widespread in our waterways.”

In 2020, EGLE updated its 2005 General Permit for CAFOs in order to enhance protection of Michigan’s waters. Despite having succeeded in substantially diluting more stringent pollution-control requirements during the development of the 2020 Permit, the CAFO industry still was not happy with its new obligations. The Michigan Farm Bureau filed suit, arguing that EGLE cannot change its existing 2005 Permit without undertaking new rulemaking. The court of appeals issued a decision adopting this argument, and EGLE sought review by the Michigan Supreme Court.

A green, soupy Lake Erie from excess nutrients causing a toxic algae bloom.

Our amicus brief explains that, if left unchecked, the appellate court’s ruling will effectively freeze in place the terms of the 2005 Permit because the legislature eliminated EGLE’s rulemaking authority after 2006. Because these terms are inadequate to protect state waters from CAFO pollution, the appellate court decision forces EGLE into permanent noncompliance with its duties under Michigan’s two landmark environmental statutes: the Natural Resource Environmental Protection Act (“NREPA”) and the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (“MEPA”). The decision also creates a constitutional problem because the legislature’s elimination of EGLE’s rulemaking authority under these circumstances violates the legislature’s duty under Article IV, Sec. 52 of the state constitution to protect state waters from impairment.

To be clear, an EGLE victory before the Michigan Supreme Court would not resolve this matter to the satisfaction of FLOW and our allies.

To be clear, an EGLE victory before the Michigan Supreme Court would not resolve this matter to the satisfaction of FLOW and our allies. We ultimately think the 2020 Permit is insufficient to protect Michigan’s waters and intend to resume our separate, currently stayed contested case against EGLE following the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision.

Learn more: See more of FLOW’s original articles on CAFOs.

Good News on Groundwater

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

Groundwater tips: Click to enlarge image.

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.

Register today for FLOW’s groundwater webinar: The Case for a Statewide Septic Code.

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.