Water utilities and residents within the Huron River watershed contribute approximately 178 million lbs of CO2 annually through the production, use and treatment of drinking water. This is equivalent to the annual emissions from nearly 17,000 passenger vehicles. It takes more than double the combined areas of the Pinckney and Waterloo Recreation Areas to sequester this much carbon each year.
My guess is most of you have not thought about water use as a contributor to climate change. Before undertaking this analysis, I had not. But over the course of the past two years, through a project supported by the Masco Corporation Foundation, HRWC has been able to research and calculate the carbon footprint of our water use here in the watershed.
A new report shares our findings. The Carbon Footprint of Domestic Water Use in the Huron River Watershed follows water from its source through water treatment, residential water use and wastewater treatment to discharge back into the environment. At each point in the cycle, energy is used. Energy is needed to pump, treat and heat water and energy use results in the release of CO2 and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
What did we learn?
- Energy used to produce drinking water in the watershed is about 10% higher than national averages.
- Energy used to treat wastewater in the watershed is 57-76% higher than national averages depending on treatment type.
- Energy used in homes for water use was lower than national averages but by far the most energy intense phase of the cycle in the watershed.
What this tells us is that there is room for improvement both among water utilities and residents of the Huron River watershed. There was a lot of variation in the efficiency of local water utilities. Future efforts can target utilities that use the most energy per unit of water produced or treated. Improving efficiencies at these utilities can lead to significant reductions in our collective carbon footprint.
That said, the greatest gains that can be made are within your power. Reducing the amount of hot water used in the home is the single greatest strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with water use. And, by doing so, households will also see reductions in both water and energy bills. It is a win-win-win situation. Save water. Save energy. Save money.
What can we do?
There are many sources of information and tips on how to reduce water use in homes. Pick a few tricks that work for you and get started. It is another way that you can take personal actions that contribute to the well being of the planet and all its inhabitants.
- Take a look at HRWC’s H20 Heroes webpage for water saving tips
- When purchasing new appliances, look for the WaterSense label
- Calculate your current water use and see how changes you make lower your impact using a water calculator.
Often overlooked when identifying ways to reduce carbon emissions, water conservation holds the potential for significant gains in reducing a community’s contribution to global climate change and something individuals and families can take on to reduce their carbon footprint. So get started today. And share with us in the comments how you are becoming an H20 Hero!
Macroinvertebrate sampling on the Huron River and its creeks
Thanks to 128 volunteers who contributed approximately 650 volunteer hours, the October 2014 River Roundup was a great success! The weather was a little dreary and chilly for our volunteers as they split into 24 teams and traveled to 48 different creek and river locations across the Huron River Watershed to assess the aquatic benthic macroinvertebrate community. This study is one of the most effective ways that HRWC has to understand how the water quality of the river and creeks may be changing. From the data collected at this semi-annual event, we are able to keep abreast of the health of our waterways throughout the watershed. You can see all the results in October 14 River Roundup Report.
Also, in case you missed it, on November 13 the HRWC staff presented our data summaries of 2014 to a packed in crowd. Jason discussed the broadening of HRWC’s volunteers and volunteer programming. I walked through a case study showing how our data and volunteer programming can be used to investigate pollution problems, and Ric explained how box and whisker graphs can show us water quality data. For those who couldn’t make it, here’s a PDF of the presentation. Let us know if you have any questions!
In a nutshell, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady. Of the 62 sites that we monitor to judge this, 28 sites have had no statistically significant changes over time, and 6 sites are too new to make this judgment.
Fourteen sites are declining, and these include locations on Chilson Creek, Davis Creek, east branch of Fleming Creek, Norton Creek, and South Ore Creek. Eight of the declining sites are in Livingston County, two are in Washtenaw, and three are in Oakland.
Fourteen sites are significantly improving. Twelve of the improving sites are in Washtenaw County, including Boyden Creek, Horseshoe Creek, the main and west branches of Fleming Creek, Huron Creek, the Huron River in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Malletts Creek, and several places on Mill Creek. One site is improving in Livingston County (Mann Creek at Van Amberg Road), and 1 site is improving in Wayne County (Woods Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark).
I’ve become a big fan of Arms Creek over the couple of years as I have learned more and more about it. While possessing a rather mucky stream bed, the water is cold and heavily influenced by groundwater, the riparian zone is thick and undisturbed in many parts, and there is plenty of woody debris in the water. In fact, part of Arms Creek is actually in a Natural River Zone. Also, many many years ago, the DNR stocked trout in Arms Creek because of the cold water temperature, which is a very rare thing for southeast Michigan. However, despite all of these great properties, the insect community has only ever been mediocre (probably due to the fine sand and muck dominating the streambed).
Therefore I was very excited to see this fall’s sample was the best ever collected there since sampling started in 1994. Sixteen total insect families were found, with five of those members of the mayfly and caddisfly families, and 3 of the families classified as “sensitive”. Sensitive families are those that are first to disappear in disturbed or polluted conditions. Finding three sensitive families is very good and usually only our best River Roundup sites have that many.
I have lowlighted Davis Creek before in this results blog, but the really poor results from this Roundup have prompted me to look into the issue again. Both the Doane Road and Pontiac Trail sites had very poor macroinvertebrate samples; the worst seen in many years at both of these sites. Both of these sites are on the main branch of Davis Creek, upstream from Sandy Bottom and Ten Mile Lake, on the outskirts of South Lyon.
To investigate the issue, I looked at the habitat data collected by our volunteers in the summer. Both locations have good to excellent habitat, with good diversity of substrate, good riparian zones, and plenty of instream woody debris. Furthermore, summer creekwalkers also explored two sections of this creek and also reported finding good habitat throughout.
Therefore, it is probable that there is something dissolved in the water, rather than poor habitat, that is reducing the macroinvertebrate diversity and abundance. Our volunteers regularly take water samples during the River Roundup that we analyze for conductivity (a proxy for total dissolved solids, which includes inorganic or organic substances, naturally found and pollutants). I plotted out conductivity over time and did indeed notice an increase of conductivity since 1994. Conductivity is going up; bugs are going down. A correlation like this does not prove anything especially given the variability in the data, but it is an interesting clue.
As a followup, it could be useful to get a water analysis to determine the exact chemical constituents of Davis Creek. We may be dealing with herbicides or pesticides, or perhaps excessive chloride (from water softeners). There is also more of the creek to explore on foot, as there are some light industrial and residential areas that we have not visited yet.
Do you consider yourself a Michigander, or aspire to be one? Then you should brave the cold and join the Winter Stonefly Search on January 17. It is like the River Roundup, only much snowier. You can register for the event here.
A couple of recent interviews cover HRWC’s RiverUp! project and watershed management planning efforts for Honey Creek. A very cool project in San Francisco is “daylighting” buried rivers through artist’s renderings. This edition of News to Us also highlights news from Dexter, the river that runs through it – Mill Creek, and a man influential in both his town and his watershed – Paul Cousins. Finally, more oil activity in the watershed as injection well is proposed in White Lake.
Bringing life, recreation and business back to the Huron River An Ypsilanti blogger interviews HRWC Deputy Director Elizabeth Riggs about RiverUp!. The result is a great conversation that paints a lovely picture of what the Huron River is and can be. Learn how this project is improving river health, encouraging river recreation and building trail towns along the Huron that bring focus to this incredible resource in our backyard.
Honey Creek Watershed Management Plan Released Listen to a brief radio interview with Ric Lawson on the recent release of the Honey Creek Watershed Management Plan. Honey Creek is a tributary of the Huron River that runs through Scio Township. Learn what threatens this creek and plans to improve its condition. Several other resources, including HRWC’s creekshed reports, can be found on our website to learn more about Honey Creek.
San Francisco Is Painting the Streets with Historical Creeks All too often, as cities were built rivers were contained in pipes and buried underground. A new initiative in San Francisco will have artists rendering rivers along their path through the city. Should we try this with Allens Creek? If we did you would “see” the river running throughout downtown Ann Arbor and west side neighborhoods from the UM stadium down to its outlet below Argo Dam. A reminder of what was.
Trout Unlimited group conducts survey at Mill Creek in Dexter The Huron River’s Mill Creek runs through Chelsea and Dexter before joining the mainstem of the river in Dexter. It is one of the cooler stretches of river and once the Mill Creek dam was removed, it became a desirable location to establish a trout fishery. While not a native fish to the Huron, the success of brown trout in Mill Creek indicates the tributary is in good condition and it brings anglers and families to the river to enjoy. This article shares the status of stocking efforts that began in 2010.
Dexter Council recognizes Paul Cousins for years of service Dexter Village Council takes time to honor Paul Cousins for his years of service to the community of Dexter. Paul has been an intrepid board member and board chair at HRWC for many years. His tireless effort and enthusiasm was instrumental in the Mill Creek dam removal project and creation of Dexter’s Mill Creek Park. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Paul as well, for everything he has done and will yet do for Dexter, the watershed and all of us who live here.
Oil exploration company suspends request for White Lake park injection well Over the past two weeks, citizens of White Lake township and nearby areas, have been reacting to a proposed injection well, cited for Island Lake Park, for the disposal of oil extraction waste. For now, the applicants have withdrawn their application from the EPA for the permit claiming there is not enough need for the local well at this point.
On a dreary Halloween morning a group of 20 intrepid University of Michigan students, boarded a trolly for a whirlwind tour of locations in Ann Arbor that show how one city is preparing for a changing climate. Guided by myself and two colleagues from the City of Ann Arbor, Jen Lawson and Jamie Kidwell, the group heard stories and learned of strategies for protecting homes from flooding, trees from dying, and residents from suffering from heat and cold related health issues and high energy costs.
As a society we still need to do everything in our power to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling global climate change. At the same time, we are already experiencing the impacts of a changing climate which are certain to continue into the future even if greenhouse gas emissions stopped tomorrow.
In the Huron River Watershed, arguably the most potentially damaging trends we are seeing in our weather patterns are larger rainfall events and more frequent and longer high heat events. Larger storm events cause flooding and overburden or damage important infrastructure (stormwater systems, dams, water utilities, roads, homes and businesses). Consecutive high heat days are a significant threat to human health and can cause droughts and brownouts. Actions that reduce the impact of these changes can be considered climate adaptation actions, or actions that build resilience to climate change.
Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County have started making investments now that help prepare for these changes. A few examples:
- The City has conducted a detailed analysis predicting where flooding is likely to occur which is helping prioritize stormwater management decisions like where pipes need replacing and where green infrastructure (like rain gardens) can help
- Washtenaw County has recently adopted new rules requiring additional infiltration and detention of rain water for new and re-developments protecting our river from erosion, pollution and risk of damaging floods
- Ann Arbor’s Green Rental program is helping improve energy efficiency in low income areas making staying cool or warm during extremes more affordable
- The Urban Forestry and Community Forest Management Plan identifies areas that are in need of shade trees to provide cooling and recommends species likely to survive more climate extremes
The City of Ann Arbor has recently released a series of climate videos that share more about why this work is a priority and what is being done. Here is the one on extreme storms:
Check out all four videos at a2energy.org/climate.
The students learned a lot about what is going on in their own backyard. I hope these links help you do the same. All aboard!
Andrea Kline, RiverUp! Construction Manager, is the author of today’s post about Ypsilanti’s Peninsular Park and the recent investments in its amenities for paddlers and residents in the neighborhood.
Fall is shaping up to be a busy time on the Huron River Water Trail! After lots of
collaborating with our partners, planning, permitting and paperwork, we finally celebrated the opening of the new floating dock at Peninsular Park in Ypsilanti. The new dock replaces an older dock on the upstream side of the portage around the Peninsular Dam that had seen better days. Huron River Water Trail signage was installed, as well.
The ribbon cutting was attended by 40 people, including many representatives of the five Huron River Trail Towns who attended a meeting earlier in the day to share their efforts to promote the exciting experiences that await river users who visit Milford, Dexter, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Flat Rock. Several participants shared their memories of college rituals from their days at EMU that included jumping into the river from the original dock, usually under the cover of darkness!
The Peninsular Paper Mill and Dam were originally built in the 1860s, reportedly
to produce newsprint for the Chicago Tribune and the dam to power it. In 1986, the dam and 6.5 acres on the north side of the river were sold to Ypsilanti for $1. This area is now managed by the City of Ypsilanti as Peninsular Park.
If you have ever driven on North Huron River Drive near the campus of EMU, you may remember seeing the landmark Peninsular Paper Co. sign that still stands at the top of the old power house. Although it has been abandoned for some time, the powerhouse still retains some of the beautiful classical architectural features that made it a city landmark in its heyday.
Local residents and neighbors have formed The Friends of Peninsular Park to lead efforts to restore the park to its former glory. Updates and news are shared on the group’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/PeninsularPark. We’re glad that the new floating dock can bring back old memories and will contribute to memories of more “good old days” in the future!
Thank you to our RiverUp! funders, especially the Austin Memorial Foundation, for investing in this section of the Huron River.
HRWC recently received final approval to release a new watershed management plan to address impairments in Honey Creek, a tributary to the Huron River in Scio Township. The creek is identified as “impaired” by the state Department of Environmental Quality because water samples routinely show levels of bacteria above the state’s water quality standards.
HRWC developed the plan in consultation with partner organizations and stakeholders in the watershed following two years of extensive study. The study included sampling throughout the creek watershed, genetic “fingerprinting” of bacteria source animals, as well as in-stream and neighborhood surveys. Overall, the study helped to identify a few critical areas of possible septic contamination and it eliminated as problem areas some other parts of the watershed. Beyond septic sources, HRWC identified pet waste, livestock waste (e.g. horses and chickens), and manure application as sources of bacteria.
Key recommendations in the plan include:
- Identification of specific septic sources, elimination of illegal connections to the creek and remediation of failing septic systems;
- Establishment of an ordinance in Scio Township requiring the removal of pet waste combined with the installation of pet waste stations at key locations;
- Targeted agricultural funding in the creekshed for manure and nutrient management, animal exclusion from waterways, and the restoration of stream buffers and wetlands; and
- Education throughout the creekshed on issues contributing to bacteria contamination.
HRWC is working with partner organizations like Scio Township, the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office, Washtenaw County Environmental Health, and the Washtenaw County Conservation District to raise funding to implement plan activities in 2015 and beyond.
In local news, listen to radio interviews with two HRWC staff on our environmental education work and the addition of a new dock at Peninsular Park. A new report identifies nature as a best defense against severe storms and flooding. Also, land and water conservation is on the ballot throughout the nation and craft brewers are uniting around clean water.
Mother Nature Offers Best Defense From Floods and Storms Mother Nature is one of the best defenses against damage from large storms and flooding. Protecting our forests and wetlands provides benefits far beyond beauty and biodiversity. A recent National Wildlife Federation report explores the benefits of land protection as a flood control strategy. HRWC’s Bioreserve Program, Green Infrastructure initiatives and riparian buffer protections work all contribute to the watershed’s natural ability to lessen the impacts of storms in our area.
Freshwater Health: Caring for our rivers, lakes and streams and their aquatic inhabitants and surrounding communities WCBN’s It’s Hot in Here program this week includes three interviews on freshwater issues affecting the Great Lakes. HRWC’s Volunteer and Stewardship Coordinator Jason Frenzel discusses our education programs and community engagement beginning around the 45 minute mark.
Craft brewers join the fight against natural gas pipelines Craft brewers understand the importance of clean water. After all, beer is 90% water. Brewers in the Huron River watershed have been great partners to HRWC over the years. This article highlights a national initiative to unite craft brewers around water quality issues. This article is an interesting read and highlights one of the many less obvious benefits of clean, plentiful water.
Voters Will Decide On Billions For Land Conservation On Election Day, voters will be deciding whether or not to support land and water conservation throughout the nation. Some of the biggest initiatives are in California, Florida and New Jersey. Many local level initiatives to support the preservation of open space are being put in front of voters as well. In fact, Washtenaw County residents will vote on a millage renewal for county parks. The Washtenaw County Parks system has contributed parks, preserves and trails that improve recreational opportunities, erosion and stormwater control, pollution prevention and the beauty of our watershed. You can learn more about the county parks system in The History of Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission video.
New Dock For Ypsilanti’s Peninsular Park As part of the RiverUp! program, a new dock has been installed at Ypsilanti’s Peninsular Park replacing a dock that had fallen into disrepair making river access and recreation difficult. This is part of a larger initiative to encourage river and trail recreation in the Huron River watershed, particularly in five “Trail Towns” along the Huron River Water Trail including Ypsilanti.
First of all, PLEASE VOTE! So many issues in Lansing and Washington, D.C. affect our watershed. Every person who can vote and who has any concern for the environment and the Huron River should take the time on November 4th to go to your precinct and vote.
Michigan House, Senate, and Governor
Half of the State House and Senate districts in our watershed are in play this election season. These representatives and senators will make important decisions about water quality and the environment in the coming years. The Governor plays a pivotal role in not only producing and signing legislation, but in implementing state laws. Here are some issues you will want your candidates to address:
- Energy – climate change is one of the biggest threats to watershed health, and we need legislation that supports renewable energy and encourages energy conservation. Vote for candidates who support energy efficiency and renewable energy policies.
- Biodiversity – the state legislature has been acting to limit the Department of Natural Resources’s ability to manage for and promote biodiversity in State parks. Find out which of your candidates supports Michigan ecosystems.
- Hydraulic fracturing – commonly referred to as “fracking,” this practice is increasingly utilized to obtain natural gas from deep beneath Michigan lands. No statute exists that requires the contents and volume of potentially hazardous chemicals used in fracking to be publicly disclosed. Additionally, no statute exists that requires oil and gas drilling to use Michigan’s water withdrawal reporting requirements. Find out how your candidate stands on requiring full disclosure of fracking chemicals and measures to ensure fracking will not result in depletion of Michigan’s most precious resource – our water.
- The Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality have suffered severe budget cuts in the past, leaving them both understaffed and underfunded, thus compromising the departments’ abilities to adequately protect our natural resources, communities, Great Lakes, and recreation areas. Vote for candidates who strongly supports funding these agencies.
U.S. House and Senate
I’m sure you’ve seen the ads (yuk) for the race to replace Senator Carl Levin, who is retiring. In addition to that race, all 6 House seats in the watershed are in play this year.
The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed two major measures this year that will require legislative support for successful implementation:
- Waters of the U.S. As HRWC’s blog from last week details, the EPA is proposing rules to clarify which tributaries and wetlands qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act. The rules would restore protections to 60% of the nation’s waterways.
- Climate Change. The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan proposal would cut carbon emissions by power plants 30% by 2030. This proposal is the United States’s biggest effort so far to limit greenhouse gases.
Ask your House and Senate candidates if they support these two initiatives.
Some environmental groups do endorse candidates and provide more guidance on elections, such as Michigan League of Conservation Voters and The Sierra Club. Also, this issue of Earth Island Journal provides a roundup of electoral races nationally.
More information about U.S. and State Districts and Candidates
Your congressional districts (including a map) and current representatives
To find your state house district
In News to Us this edition, HRWC receives a grant to teach students about the river and a new app allows citizen scientist to record invasive species locations. Also, Great Lakes Echo produces a podcast reviewing the month in Great Lakes environmental news. Finally, the oil and gas industry makes headlines again in our area.
Grant Will Help Huron River Watershed Council Take Classroom Learning Outdoors HRWC’s Volunteer and Stewardship Coordinator, Jason Frenzel contributes to a piece highlighting a recent grant we received to work with K-12 students throughout the watershed to get them out in the rivers, learning how to sample and building an understanding of the condition of our creeks and streams.
To catch a predator: Citizens enlisted to track invasive species Here at HRWC we are proud of our citizen scientists. They do much to help support our mission and protect the natural resources of our area. Now there is another way you can contribute right through your smartphone. MISIN, or the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network, has developed an app that lets you report locations of non-native species. With a lot of eyes on the ground (and in the water), MISIN can gain insights into the spread of invasives and how to stop them.
Great Lakes in review: mayors on algae, restoration update This great podcast series recently came to our attention. Great Lakes Echo is producing monthly podcasts summarizing the month in environmental stories from around the Great Lakes. If you want to stay up to date on regional environmental issues, tune into this series. The most recent podcast covers September including the Summit on Water Resources lead by the region’s mayors and spurred on by the Toledo drinking water ban, and updates to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative which now require projects incorporate climate change adaptation.
We continue to see a lot of news on oil and gas issues both within the Huron River watershed and the broader Great Lakes region. Here are two recent articles on a proposed pipeline that would be built through Washtenaw and Livingston Counties and how local communities are responding.
- Washtenaw County board to discuss proposed oil and gas pipelines at working session
- Pinckney moves to oppose pipeline
Fly fishing in Ypsilanti.
Three short films are being released by the Huron River Watershed Council that share stories of the renaissance happening along the Huron River.
“Fly Fishing the Huron” is the first and features small business owner Mike Schultz and his Ypsilanti-based Schultz Outfitters: Fly Fishing Guides & Destination Travel. The film revolves around the Single Fly Tournament, hosted by Schultz Outfitters on July 20, 2014. Schultz’s enthusiasm and commitment have contributed to the revitalization of the local Ypsilanti business community and have helped sparked the popularity of fly fishing along the Huron River.
7 Cylinders Studio of Ann Arbor worked with HRWC over the summer producing “Fly Fishing the Huron” to share the vision of RiverUp!, a plan for the Huron River’s future. RiverUp! is a strategy to realize the goal of a vibrant, robust, and restored river as a destination for residents, visitors, and businesses. Additional films to be released in the RiverUp! series include Dexter’s transformation of its waterfront and the creation of the Huron River Water Trail.
HRWC leads RiverUp! in partnership with the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Office, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, and the Wolfpack, a group of 75 business and community leaders and organizations.