A deeper look at the Great Lakes and Michigan's waterways

Over the past year, Issue Media Group's Model D, MetroMode and Yonge Street publications have been exploring how Michigan's waterways suffer from disconnects between nature and man, between levels of governments, between surface, ground, storm and waste water systems, and between Michigan and other Great Lakes states and Canada. It's an important conversation to have, as water becomes an ever more precious resource worldwide, and the Great Lakes become an even rarer jewel in the world's ecosystems. Those of us here on their shores, it's plain to see, have a responsibility to caretake and oversee their management with an eye toward what we can do to heal those disconnects.


Storm Drain/ Photo by Doug Coombe

The series is called Fractured Water, and the first story digs into the work being done by the Great Lakes Commission on a project called Greater Lakes. Greater Lakes' aim is to help communities across the region manage water resources more holistically, and the long view on the story can be found here.


Mallett's Creek in downtown Ann Arbor is partially buried within the city and suffers from stormwater overload and a lack of connection to the natural water cycle.

Our urban Great Lakes water systems are disconnected from the natural environment, but cities are looking to reintegrate them using green infrastructure and integrated management approaches. This story takes a look at what cities including Toronto, Detroit and Ann Arbor are doing right now, and still need to do in the future to fix aging water systems in a manner consistent with the future of the Great Lakes -- in other words, how cities can look outside their own confines and see the impact they have on the whole region's water. Read on for the entire story.
You can also view this accompanying video: 


Courtesy of the Center for Neighborhood Technology

In the Great Lakes, we drive to get where we are going. And with tens of thousands of lane-miles of roadway across the basin, in both urban areas and rural areas, the impact of all of that hard surface on our waterways adds up. Here's an example: Most roadways around the Great Lakes were built without any flood control systems, and often with an eye toward getting any water off roads as quickly as possible, with no design spent on safety of ecological systems affected by runoff. As a result, urban runoff is considered  one of the greatest threats to Great Lakes biodiversity and our prized water quality. Now, as the road infrastructure ages, we have the opportunity, when making improvements, to do that with our wetlands and lakes in mind. There's an in-depth look at how, here.
We also made a video to explore how green infrastructure can help heal the disconnect between roadways and waterways, here:



The Earl Bales Stormwater Management Pond creates an ecological landscape feature to protect the West Don River. Source: City of Toronto

In Toronto, Ontario, new plans for the city's water management infrastructure are focusing on integrating "green" solutions within the traditional, or "grey" systems, helping extend their life and mitigating traditional problems like runoff and water efficiency. They are taking inspiration from other Canadian cities to improve the cycle of water interaction with Lake Ontario and the other Great Lakes. More of the story is online here.

All these stories were made possible through a partnership with the Great Lakes Commission, through the Greater Lakes project, with support from the Great Lakes Protection Fund, and were written by Nina Ignaczak.
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