The Rapidian

A Watershed Moment: Stormwater management in Grand Rapids

On this episode of A Watershed Moment, Grand Rapids Drain Commissioner Bill Byl explains stormwater management and how it impacts West Michigan.
Polluted stormwater runoff from the Grand River pours into Lake Michigan.

Polluted stormwater runoff from the Grand River pours into Lake Michigan. /Courtesy of WMEAC

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Please visit 15toriver.org for more detailed information about stormwater and how you can help manage it on your own property as well as city-wide.

“A Watershed Moment” is a weekly radio program focused on environmental news and happenings in West Michigan, plus solutions for living a greener life.  Broadcast on WYCE-FM 88.1 on Tuesdays at 8:30am and 5:30pm, this program is produced by Grand Rapids Community Media  Center and West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

Before Michigan was settled, natural drainage created many wetlands in the state. As inhabitants came, water was drained in order to avoid disease and make room for arable land. This was done by building straight and deep ditches which swiftly moved water out of the way. This system, however, caused flooding downstream because water flowed so quickly. The concept of stormwater management arose out of a need to prevent floods during big storms.

On this episode of "A Watershed Moment", we hear from Bill Byl, Drain Commissioner for the city of Grand Rapids, on local stormwater management.

Today, stormwater management in Michigan has four main goals: flood prevention, protecting the stream channel, improving and protecting water quality and recharging groundwater. Experts are turning to natural solutions to meet these goals. For example, stormwater runoff follows natural contours and utilizes floodplains and wetlands to move and purify water effectively.

Poorly managed stormwater can mean disaster. Last spring, for example, the powerful Mississippi River overflowed in the Deep South and flooded everything within reach.  The best place to manage the Mississippi River is in Minnesota, where the contributing flows from the watershed begin. By the time the water reaches south, it is usually too late to prevent flooding.

It is important to manage stormwater from as far up in the watershed as possible. There, it can be managed with less construction and cost than downstream. Grand Rapids works hard to manage water upstream, before it creates problems.

Locally, WMEAC's 15totheRiver program seeks to eliminate stormwater runoff, the leading source of water pollution in West Michigan. Click on the link to learn more and get involved in community efforts to protect water from stormwater runoff.

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