Environment officials in Michigan have released a new water stewardship plan that aims to protect what they consider "globally unique water resources" in the state.
According to the state's Environmental Quality Department, the 30-year Michigan Water Plan is designed to serve not only the government's environmental objectives but also its economic and social goals as well.
The new water strategy begins by raising awareness on the importance of protecting and restoring the various waterways in Michigan and promoting the involvement of communities in order to achieve these goals.
In a meeting with other state leaders in Harrison Township on Friday, June 10, Gov. Rick Snyder pointed out five key priorities that are needed to be addressed regarding the state water plan. These are:
1. Ensuring that Michiganders have safe drinking water
2. Preventing invasive species from getting into state water resources
3. Investing in recreational and commercial harbors
4. Developing water trails systems in the state
5. Reducing phosphorus levels in waterways, particularly in the western basin of Lake Erie
The governor said the state has already started to address the phosphorus levels in Lake Erie through a program that allows local farmers to voluntarily help out in reducing runoffs from agricultural activities.
"We actually have an arrangement going, a partnership with Ohio and Ontario, to look at reducing phosphorous in the Western Lake Erie basin by 40 percent over the next few years," Snyder said. "That's very important."
Runoffs of chemical nutrients such as phosphorous have resulted in the proliferation of toxic cyanobacteria in Lake Erie over the past few years.
The water plan also calls for financing the development of Michigan's water infrastructure. However, Snyder did not mention just exactly how much money is needed to carry this part of the plan out.
U.S. Congresswoman Candice Miller said the state government has undervalued its so-called "invisible" water infrastructure for far too long, and that the impacts of this negligence are beginning to show up all over Michigan. This includes the state's current problems with sewage overflows and the crisis on available drinking water in Flint.
Miller stressed that Michiganders do not have to go through these problems. She believes that the new water plan will help restore real-time monitoring for the Southeast Michigan water system, which was largely abandoned after the initial grant from the federal government ran out.
She said that government officials just didn't have the political will to address these problems.
The remaining parts of the Michigan Water Plan are set to be released throughout the year.