Calculating Stormwater Benefits in West Michigan

WMEAC has received a grant to develop an online calculator that will be used to determine the economic and environmental benefits of installing stormwater related green infrastructure (GI) in Grand Rapids and Muskegon. Recently, WMEAC was awarded $99,810 from the United States Forest Service through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and is now partnering with Grand Valley State University (GVSU) to develop the online tool.

GI is broadly defined as anything that involves utilizing natural hydrologic features to manage water, and provide environmental and community benefits. GI technologies include, tree canopy, forested areas bordering streams, bioswales, bioinfiltration basins (rain gardens), green roofs, porous pavement/pavers, rain barrels, as well as many others. The implementation of GI practices provides numerous benefits for communities, including improved water quality, natural habitat, aesthetics, and water interception. These benefits are referred to as “ecosystem services”, which are services with economic components that ecosystems provide naturally to people.

WMEAC hopes that the calculator will lead to the increased implementation of GI in Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and eventually other mid-sized cities throughout the Great Lakes basin.

“Green infrastructure helps capture rainwater closer to where it falls and limits the amount of polluted stormwater that enters our rivers and streams”, said Elaine Sterrett Isely, Director of Water and Low Impact Development Programs, WMEAC. “Implementation of these practices can reduce the amount of traditional stormwater infrastructure needed to manage runoff. This calculator will help community leaders better understand how an investment in green infrastructure now will pay off in the long run.”

Grand Rapids’ location along the Grand River, and Muskegon’s location on Muskegon Lake – a designated Great Lakes Area of Concern – makes their locations important for capturing stormwater runoff and pollutants prior to entering Lake Michigan.

WMEAC and GVSU have already begun collecting data which will be used to build and inform the various components of the calculator. During this summer and into the fall, the two groups will begin to analyze the data and build the online tool. In 2016, it is hoped that the calculator, and accompanying community training, will be rolled out to demonstrate how the calculator works, and show the benefits of GI.

Both groups are hopeful that the products that are developed from this grant will result in improved stormwater management and water quality not only in Grand Rapids and Muskegon, but also in other cities interested in using green infrastructure to save money, improve water quality, and improve the quality of for the city’s residents.

1 reply
  1. Robert Stegmier
    Robert Stegmier says:

    I am extremely interested in what can be done to combat the every increasing flood levels and help eliminate some of the damage caused.

    I have been actively speaking out whenever possible and even more so since the new flood level recorded in 2013.

    My first reaction was, “no one is really in charge” and conclusion after hearing from many sources there isn’t and as important no unified effort to combat this problem.

    Therefore I applauded WE-ME-ACT’s effort here and want to help!

    I urge overall involvement throughout the Grand River watershed with emphasis on the affect what is done or doesn’t done upstream adversely affects those downstream. We all know this BUT don’t feel the pain and therefor don’t always react accordingly.

    One example the city of Grand Rapids has a very good plan now except for one element I think needs a full revie and that is the flood wall planed for upstream in cooperation with the city of walker. MY BIG CONCERN IS THAT THIS LIKELY WILL CAUSE HIGHER FLOOD LEVELS IN NORTH PARK AND COMSTOCK PARK AND EVEN FURTHER UPSTREAM. Otherwise I like the plan.

    One tool that might be helpful is the actively recorded water flow in the river. When one goes to these sites it is startling just how rapidly the flow rate jumps within in just hours of a significant rain. Publishing this info might get folks and authorities attention and then some action.


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