The West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) has received a grant to develop an online stormwater 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 this stormwater 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 stormwater 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 stormwater calculator. During the summer of 2015 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.