By Julia Kirkwood
To Know Your Water Is to Love Your Water
Michigan is blessed with water! MI is water rich. You are within 5 miles of water anywhere in MI! Clichés about Michigan water but nevertheless true. By the numbers; MI is surrounded by 4 Great Lakes with 3,049 miles of shoreline, 10,000 inland lakes 10 acres or more, 76,439 miles of rivers and streams and 6.4 million acres of remaining wetlands (MI has lost over 4.2 million acres of wetlands). Water can be seen everywhere in this amazing state and yet it is also hidden and taken for granted. Keeping it clean and healthy is important not just for drinking and swimming but for all the life it supports.
The big issues, like the oil spill or PCBs in the Kalamazoo River or Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac, or open pit mining, do matter. Not everyone can be involved in the big issues for a variety of reasons. But, what about the little things that affect the interconnected web daily? How well do you know your local lakes and rivers—7the ones that are within 5 miles of you? How well do you know the plants and animals that rely on them? How well do you know how easy it is to disconnect their life needs so they can no longer be sustained as a result of human desires? Did you know that research shows that when development reaches 30 houses per square mile surrounding an inland lake all green frogs disappear? Did you know that the Kalamazoo River has way too much phosphorus going into it every time it rains or the snow melts?
We all live in a watershed and we all can affect the water and the life it supports by the actions we take or don’t take. In the city keeping your stormwater out of the storm drains is one way to help but what else could you do? Here are some organizations that can help you figure out what you could do. Maybe you could help clean up a river, clear a river trail, join in a paddle event learn how to build a rain garden or become a MI Shoreland Steward (if you have a lake cottage).
- Kalamazoo River Watershed Council www.kalamazooriver.org
- Two Rivers Coalition (Black and Paw Paw Rivers) www.tworiverscoaltion.org
- Friends of the St. Joseph River www.fotsjr.org
- Bangor to South Haven Water Trail
- Michigan Shoreland Steward Program www.mishorelandstewards.org
It is also said that when you know something you also come to love it and if you love it you will also protect it. Find a way this summer to get to know your lake or river better and see how more connected you become.