Archive for the ‘Education’ Category
Last week over 500 people from 43 states and two territories gathered in Denver, CO for the inaugural National Adaptation Forum. These 500 represented our national climate adaptation community—folks from around the country helping people and wildlife prepare for a changing climate. I attribute it to the universal nature of the issue that the event was attended by federal, state and local government staff and officials, academics and professionals from the non-profit and private sectors. City planners, public works professionals, wildlife biologists, sustainability directors, climate scientists, insurance and hazard mitigation professionals all exchanged ideas, successes and challenges. Each brought new perspectives and innovations that crossed sectoral silos and built a common fabric upon which all of us can draw and build. I was fortunate to be a part of this seminal event.
The program and presentations were exciting and energizing. Cities and towns throughout the nation are taking action to reduce vulnerabilities to climate change impacts which vary depending on where you are in the country. Out west, water scarcity will worsen as less snow falls on the mountains to replenish their water sources. Wild fires are becoming more frequent and severe. Coastal areas face sea level rise, higher storm surges and salt water intrusion. Here in Michigan, we are expecting more severe droughts in the summer and larger storms in the spring and fall. Many communities are reacting to extreme events that have already occurred such as Superstorm Sandy, the 2012 drought or the Chicago heatwave. The thread running throughout the talks, no matter where a speaker was from or what issue they were focused on, is that communities should be minimizing risk. We cannot know when that big storm will come or how long a drought or heat wave will last. But we can be proactive and ready our communities for these times.
I was proud to speak on behalf of HRWC and the communities in the watershed participating in our Climate Resilient Communities project. Our work is unique in that we are approaching adaptation on a whole systems scale – the watershed. Involving the many municipalities in the watershed is challenging but innovative. And there is power in our numbers. What we can accomplish together is far greater than what any one community can accomplish on its own.
The National Adaptation Forum was the first climate adaptation event of this nature and, exceeding the expectations of the conference organizers, generated tremendous interest. Twice as many presentations were submitted as could be accommodated. Registration closed long before the conference and a long wait list formed. As conference organizer and plenary speaker Lara Hansen of EcoAdapt stated, we are part of the “adaptation vanguard”- a group of forward-thinking individuals at the front lines of a growing movement. This made me feel hopeful. I hope it does the same for you.
Pledge to conserve water and reduce pollution!
The month of April is the Second Annual National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, a friendly, community-based competition between cities across the nation to see who can be the most “water wise.”
Presented by the Wyland Foundation, the month-long Challenge invites city leaders and their residents to pledge to conserve water. All those who take the pledge are entered into a national competition with other communities to win hundreds of prizes – including a Toyota Prius, water saving fixtures and Never Waste water bottles from the Alliance for Water Efficiency. Last year residents from over 1,000 cities participated and pledged to save a total of 4.7 billion gallons of water.
HRWC Deputy Director Elizabeth Riggs helped pre-launch the campaign with a presentation to 6-8th grades at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor. HRWC and Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje were invited to introduce the Wyland Foundation’s mobile learning experience to the Tappan community and talk about HRWC’s work.
HRWC’s Saving Water Saves Energy program has lots of tips, tools and calculators on saving water, as well as a new 60-second PSA that promotes the connection between water and energy. Start your April by joining in the National Mayor’s Challenge and by going to www.h2oheroes.org to tap into the H2O Hero in you!
Sadly, not a lot of good news has come across our desks over the past couple of weeks. Instead, we are hearing of major losses, or potential losses, in the gains we have made with our nation’s waters over the decades since the Clean Water Act. It is a signal that we cannot let up on our efforts to protect our freshwater, and the life it supports and the services it provides.
EPA Declares More than Half of US Rivers Unfit for Aquatic Life – A recently released report from the Environmental Protection Agency identified 55% of US rivers and stream are in poor condition for aquatic life. Major culprits include reduced riparian vegetation, phosphorus, nitrogen, mercury and bacteria. We are losing ground on our high quality rivers. Only 21% of US rivers qualified as “good biological condition compared to the 27% that fell into that category in the 2004 assessment. In the Huron, phosphorus is a big concern, as is bacterial pollution. Learn more about local water quality here or listen to a summary of our water quality monitoring results from 2012.
Judge ends federal court oversight of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department The utility responsible for delivering drinking water and treating wastewater for 4 million customers in Southeast Michigan has been under federal oversight for 35 years. Oversight will now move to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality due to significant improvements in compliance with environmental regulations. The new State permit calls for additional improvements to the facility’s wastewater treatment operations.
Spring Rain, Then Foul Algae in Ailing Lake Erie The Huron’s receiving water, Lake Erie, is in trouble. Toxic algal blooms in the lake are getting worse causing problems for fish populations, tourism and beaches. The lake had seen vast improvements since the Clean Water Act helped halt industrial pollution. Now, we are losing ground primarily due to phosphorus pollution primarily from farming practices. Climate change and zebra mussels are also cited as contributing to the problem.
Hydraulic fracturing in Michigan: Waiting for the boom So far, the Huron River watershed and much of Michigan has not been subject to natural gas extraction via the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process that has many states debating costs versus benefits of the method. The method uses a lot of water and a slurry of chemicals deep into the earth. This article shares why fracking has not yet come to our backyard and under what conditions it may.
The effort to derail ‘Biodiversity Stewardship Areas’ in Michigan Here is another voice in the debate over Senate bill 78. This is a very important issue to us and anyone who values our state’s natural areas and their inhabitants. We will continue to keep you up-to-date on our website. To learn more about the issue and how to voice your opinion see our blog Healthy Forests and Waters At-Risk in Michigan .
The Huron: Rivers of Michigan Series
By Kit Lane
Reviewed by Grace Shackman
Kit Lane has saved Huron River enthusiasts a great deal of time by collecting all the facts she can about our river. The Saugatuck-based author has written more than twenty books on Michigan history including one on John Allen, Ann Arbor’s co-founder, and four on other rivers in the state.
The book starts with an explanation of how the Huron was formed, followed by pre-settlement travelers’ accounts and information on early river communities. Lane explains why dams were built and discusses the issue of removal. Her chapter on environmental concerns goes into detail on the founding and work of the Huron River Watershed Council.
Lane includes specific information helpful to river users such as boating conditions, variety of rapids, parks, and trails. The second half of the book is devoted to a trip down the Huron listing all the public places where people can stop.
In the course of the book Lane answers several questions I’ve always wondered about. One is whether LaSalle really did use the Huron River when he took a trip across the state in 1680. Lane thinks he did and using a translation of his journal identifies where he stopped. Another is why the river wasn’t used by early settlers to move their supplies. The answer is it was too shallow after Rawsonville and the rock bottom didn’t allow deepening. One criticism, in two places she says that Ann Arbor was founded in 1823, when it was 1824, a fact she does get right in her book about John Allen.
Grace Shackman writes history articles for several local publications as well as teaching Washtenaw history and architecture at Washtenaw Community College.
The Huron: Rivers of Michigan Series, is 168 pages, with black and white maps, old postcard views, newly shot photographs, and a full index with bibliography. It retails for $18.50 and is available for purchase locally at the West Side Book Shop, 113 West Liberty, Ann Arbor.
HRWC would like to thank author Kit Lane for sharing her book with us and Grace Shackman for writing this review.
Sepp Holzer To Lecture on Ecological Farming Techniques at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Tuesday, April 2, 6:30-9pm
Rackham Amphitheatre, (Rackham Building, 4th floor)
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
In-depth Three Day Permaculture Course, April 2-4, 2013 also offered.
Permaculture is a whole-systems-design-approach to land, water, food, energy and buildings. When it comes to water, permaculture designers create landscapes that catch, store, clean and reuse water resources. These methods have numerous benefits to ecosystems and watersheds, including water conservation, aquifer restoration, minimizing soil runoff and erosion control. Permaculture utilizes organic agriculture practices, eliminating the use of toxic pesticides and chemicals that pollute our rivers, streams, and damage biodiversity. The goal of Permaculture design is to provide for human needs and protect diverse ecosystems, all within the flow of natural patterns and cycles.
Sepp Holzer has pioneered the use of ecological farming and Permaculture throughout the world. He began farming this way in Austria in the 1960’s after being unsuccessful with conventional agriculture methods. He is known as the “rebel farmer” because he persisted despite being fined and even threatened with prison. His “Krameterhoff” farm in the Austrian alps receives thousands of students and visitors each year.
On a crisp Thursday morning last week, as the sun rose over the pond formed by Argo Dam in Ann Arbor, 25 owners and operators of small dams within the Huron River watershed gathered to discuss their management and responsibilities for the dams.
Here are some of the highlights:
Elizabeth Riggs provided background information and statistics about dams in the watershed, in Michigan and around the nation. The majority of dams in the watershed are more than 40 years old, which presents a significant maintenance issue across the watershed as these dams may be approaching (or passed!) their design life. Elizabeth also discussed the growing national trend of dam removal. She indicated that removal can be 3 to 5 times less expensive than dam reconstruction, and funding is available for removal, but not reconstruction.
Luke Trumble, environmental engineer with the Hydrologic Studies and Dam Safety Unit of MDEQ, spoke to the group about the state’s regulation of dams and how it impacts dam owners. He emphasized liabilities associated with dams and the importance of inspection for dam safety. He indicated that owners of high-hazard dams are about 95% compliant with inspection and maintenance regulations. MDEQ inspects state-owned and municipally-owned dams upon request. Private owners must hire private, licensed engineers.
Shawn Middleton, engineer with the Spicer Group, presented on dam inspection and maintenance considerations and the economics of dam management. He highlighted observable evidence of dam deterioration, what to do about it, and how to quantify and minimize cost. One interesting point of discussion was that most of the older dams were not designed for the flood sizes that can be expected in the near future. For example, storms have caused dam failure in western parts of the state in recent years.
Following the presentations, Laura Rubin facilitated a discussion with the attendees and speakers on topics such as restoring river systems following a long period as a dammed system; dam ownership and transfer; and hydropower cost vs. revenue. Cost/benefit analysis in Michigan is showing that converting to hydropower is a liability rather than a benefit financially.
Leading up to the seminar, HRWC has worked to inventory the dams in the watershed and collect information about the structures, their ponds, owners and management. Dam owners and operators were surveyed to update information in the dam database. During this process, more dams, many which are too small to be regulated by the state, were discovered. The large dam operators on the river mainstem recently formed an informal association to establish communication and share information. The smaller dam owners were invited to last Thursday’s seminar.
Presentations and Links of Interest are now available at www.hrwc.org/events/past-seminars.
Climate adaptation is any action taken that reduces the vulnerability of natural communities and the built environment to the impacts of climate change. For example, if we are going to get larger storms, what do we need to do to our stormwater practices and infrastructure to reduce the chances of flooding or pipe or dam failure? If warmer air temperatures mean we are more susceptible to a new forest pest or pathogen, what do we do to reduce tree loss? These are some of the questions we are considering, along with water resource professionals from throughout the watershed, in our Making Climate Resilient Communities project.
We are not alone in our efforts to adapt to changes in climate. There are communities, agencies and organizations throughout the Great Lakes Region that are engaged in efforts to determine courses of action in response to climate change. Those of us who are working in this arena are pioneering a new field and can serve as a resource to others.
Recently, EcoAdapt, an organization focused on facilitating climate adaptation, released a report: The State of Climate Change Adaptation in the Great Lakes Region. The report provides an overview of climate change in the region, shares the results of a survey to water resource professionals capturing adaptation activities and reflects on common challenges and opportunities to push the needle forward on climate adaptation.
HRWC’s Climate Resilient Communities and Saving Water Saves Energy projects stand proudly among the 57 case studies highlighted in the report (pg 94). You will also find other examples from our watershed including the efforts of the City of Ann Arbor (pg 103) and the Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities project that has selected Ann Arbor as one of it’s assessment cities (pg 142). This report, along with many other adaptation resources can be found on CAKE (Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange) website.
Laura Rubin to give talk on the health of the Huron River watershed at Washtenaw Community College
WCC faculty members are creating a greater understanding of environmental issues with a yearlong series of awareness events and activities focusing on Michigan’s waterways. WCC’s
“Year of Water” officially kicked off in July and August with a few awareness activities for students. Join HRWC Executive Director Laura Rubin as she gives an overview of the health of the Huron River watershed as part of WCC’s ongoing commitment to support and sustain the environment and their year-long focus on water.
Date: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Location: Great Lakes Training Center, Room 202 (Campus Map)
Free and open to the public.
Videos for your viewing pleasure . . .
The Saving Water Saves Energy project is producing its first video PSA to raise awareness in our watershed of the connection between water and energy. Some of our early prep work involved spending time on the internets “researching” good examples of PSAs that both grab the viewer’s attention and propose a solution.
From a take off on reality tv to a riff on Law and Order, the following are a few hilarious favorites, screaming director and all. Spend 6 minutes and 27 seconds taking a look, you won’t be disappointed.
Squeeze More From Every Drop (1:49)
Water Conservation PSA (2:38)
Don’t Let Trash Ruin Your Scene (Eternity) (:60)
Don’t Let Trash Ruin Your Scene (Jaws) (:30)
Don’t Let Trash Ruin Your Scene (Hunger Games) (:30)
Got any favorites you’d like to share?
Through the summer of 2012 Dave Wilson, Lee Burton, Janet Kahan, and Alison and Graham Battersby worked tirelessly to improve our education programming materials and lessons.
This autumn’s educator training saw a huge increase in our volunteer capacity. These new volunteers quickly jumped in, shadowing and leading alongside our wonderful existing volunteers.
Events at numerous schools in Ann Arbor, as well as Pinckney, had area students learning through hands-on activities about stream speed, temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, erosion,
habitats, and – of course – benthic macroinvertebrates.
With lots of new volunteers, we’re now welcoming a few new schools into our programming. If your middle school or high school science class is interested, please let Jason Frenzel know, firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, a big thanks to TOYOTA for their support of this program.