Assessing the health of Michigan's rivers and inland waters

Jul 22, 2013

It's been nearly a year since we launched Stateside, and we've put a lot of focus and attention on issues regarding our Great Lakes.

Today, we shifted our attention to another essential part of Michigan's water wonderland: our rivers and inland waters. How healthy are they? And what do we need to do as a state to preserve and protect them?

Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council of Southeast Michigan, joined us today.

“We really had a crisis with our rivers and lakes in the '60s, that’s when we had lakes catching on fire and we had a lot of industrial pollution. The Clean Water Act went a long way,” said Rubin. “That has spurred quite a bit of improvements in our water quality.”

However, now, she says non-point source pollution is the main source of pollution. Non-point source pollution occurs when water runs off of roofs, driveways, and lawns, carrying with it oil, fertilizer, metals, garbage, and sediments.

This kind of pollution is harder to control. Education, according to Rubin, is the best strategy for fixing this problem.

“We have a mentality that we want to get water off (the land) as fast as we can,” she said. “We now need to, really, if we’re going to protect our lakes and our streams, see water more as a resource.”

Despite the challenges of non-point source pollution, as well as climate change, Rubin remains hopeful for the future of Michigan’s rivers and lakes.

“One of the core values of Michigan is our natural resources,” she said. “Yes, we’re surrounded by all the Great Lakes, but we have 36,000 miles of river and over 11,000 lakes. That’s a tremendous resource. That’s a great asset that Michigan has.”

Rubin is optimistic that business interests and environmental interests can be balanced. With strong wetlands control and sand dune protection, as well as community support, she says Michigan can achieve a “blue” economy.

-Michelle Nelson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Listen to the full interview above.