Beneath our beloved lakes, rivers, streams, creeks and communities are our aquifers. These features store our vast expanse of groundwater, which irrigates our crops, powers our electrical plants, keeps our surface water and its ecosystems vibrant, and gives us good, clean water to drink.
But failing septic systems, factory farm pollution and toxic chemicals have seeped into our groundwater supply. Industry and agriculture have unsustainably withdrawn water from the ground, threatening water quality, ecosystems and land stability.
To keep our water system strong, clean and perpetually refreshed, we must better understand groundwater and protect it in ways both environmentally and economically beneficial.
MEC program director Tom Zimnicki and MEC board member Bryan Burroughs are using their appointments to the state's Water Use Advisory Council to give Michigan the data it needs to best protect groundwater. This state-appointed, citizen-powered council gave its first recommendations to the Michigan Legislature in 2021: a minimum $11 million to fund systems that would efficiently collect, analyze and use data that will power future decision making on how water is used and monitored.
We know a lot about our surface water. We are, after all, the Great Lake State. But the water beneath is metaphorically murky. We don't even know how groundwater travels. A PFAS-contaminated site or a major water withdrawal could have devastating effects elsewhere in the state, and we wouldn't even know it.
To protect groundwater from toxic and chemical pollutants, we're educating and advocating for three policies: a statewide septic code, sustainable agricultural practices and limits to manure runoff.
Michigan is the only state without a statewide septic code, and many of our counties don't have a code either. That makes it tough to fix septic tanks before they fail, identify where a failure has occurred and help tank owners pay for expenses. When a septic tank fails, the nasty nutrients in our waste can contaminate our groundwater and, thus, our drinking water.
Groundwater is threatened from waste above, too, namely from animal waste that travels down below. We're working in the state administrative courts and with farmers to help promote sustainable agricultural practices that are both environmentally and economically beneficial.
How We Work
- Through Program Director Tom Zimnicki’s and board member Bryan Burroughs’ appointments to the Water Use Advisory Council
- Through Chairwoman Jennifer McKay’s policy leadership with Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
- With member groups like Michigan Trout Unlimited, Healthy Pine River and ECCSCM
- As always, with other member groups
- As always, at the Capitol