Posts Tagged ‘Rain garden’

Engage, Engage, Engage

In the last 2 months I’ve been asked a lot about my thoughts on sustainability and climate going forward. At a recent climate rally I shared what we do best at HRWC—the climate science and trends, and what people can do.

Here is a synopsis of my comments:

For 50 years our job has been to study and protect the Huron River, which runs right through many communities, including Ann Arbor. We have 25 years of data about this ecosystem. And the data confirms what we’ve seen this February. We have a migrating climate. Days like this are what we would have expected to see in Kentucky 20 years ago. Within 50 years our seasons will feel more like Oklahoma. This has massive implications for our natural ecosystems and our economy, and our quality of life!

Ann Arbor floodingSo let me tell you about what our science shows us about Michigan today:

  • It’s warmer. Annually by 2 degrees F; by 2070 an increase of 3.5 to 6 degrees.
  • Today, the growing season, or the frost-free season, has gotten longer by 9 days. In the future, it could increase by 1-2 months.
  • Today, Michigan gets more rain and snow—an 11% increase. In Ann Arbor 24% more.
  • The strongest storms have become more intense and more frequent. These rain storms are so heavy they overwhelm our storm sewers, our dams, and our wastewater treatment plants.

But, that’s facts and figures, let me tell you a couple of stories about how that affects us all.

  • People might remember that three years ago, a rain caused flooding in our watershed and in particular, on the UM campus. It was so intense and with so much water, students kayaked down the East University Street.
  • HRWC researches the river. Every January, we send about 100 volunteers out, up and down the river, to collect Stoneflies. Stoneflies are little bugs that are sensitive to changes and pollution, so they tell us how healthy the river is. Two years ago we had to cancel because of the extreme cold. The volunteers couldn’t break the thick ice to get in to the river. This year, we had the opposite problem: our volunteers could not get in the river in certain places due to high flows from a 50 degree thaw. We heard from volunteers that they were already seeing stoneflies that had hatched rather than in their larval stage. This means that when the fish start spawning in April, they won’t have as many stoneflies to eat….that damages the entire aquatic ecosystem.

So we’ve had an extremely warm February, but these unexpected extremes should now be expected.

So what can we do about this? Engage, engage, engage. I hear from people day in and out that they are frustrated and yearning to take action. We need big change; to change the way we operate major infrastructure systems of this country—transportation, energy, stormwater, housing, waste, and food.

As somebody who has spent my career working on environmental issues, here’s what I find effective: 1. Take individual steps on your own and with your family; 2. Build connections with people (your colleagues, elected officials, friends, neighbors) to work on issues at a larger scale.

Stand up against the things you don’t want (a weaker EPA, the Dakota pipeline, Line 5), but at the same time take actions to create the things you do.

There’s lots of things we can do as individuals. We also have elected officials, business, and government employees, and it’s important to do things collectively and scale them up.

  • To change our transportation systems, Take the bus—and advocate for robust public transit;
  • To change our stormwater systems, Put in a rain garden or rain barrel—and work with neighbors to push your university or town to install better rain capture systems on roads, parks, and rooftops;
  • To change our energy system, Put in solar—and help your elected officials pass tax incentives and ease of permitting for alternative energy; and
  • To improve our housing system, Live near your work or school—and encourage affordable housing so others can too.

Finally, it’s important to volunteer—engage in your community, sit on a board or commission. This is tough but necessary work. This is where change is made.

In my work as Director of HRWC, I bring very different people together to protect something we all love, the Huron River. I do that by talking to everyone who plays a part—farmers, drain commissioners, hunters, anglers, politicians, scientists, and homeowners. We’re all really different people with different political perspectives. We don’t always agree, but we find ways to make real change. Because all these people work together, the river is cleaner than it’s been in 50 years. It’s that steady engaged work that makes a difference and gives me hope.

Go get involved, take up the challenge, and let’s get to work!

Here are some of our projects that exemplify how our partnerships address climate change.

 

Working for the Huron at Home

In addition to being the director at HRWC, I own a home. As a homeowner we’ve been trying to reduce our carbon footprint and save water and energy.IMG_0104

My work in the environmental field makes me familiar with the many things we can do at home to protect the environment. But it takes money and time to act on these tips. This past year we were finally able to work on a few “greening” home improvements, shared here for inspiration . . .

Rain Gardens

Last year we reached out to the Washtenaw County Water Resource Commissioner’s Office to help develop a plan to capture and infiltrate more of the runoff from our roof.  Years ago we installed a rain barrel but it is limited to 50 gallons per rain, with use in between rains.  I live in Ann Arbor on a pretty small parcel and there is not much room for rain storage and infiltration…or a garden.  But we were able to identify 2 different rain garden locations—one a swale along one side of the house and another in the front of the house.

After choosing plants and a design we installed the rain garden last spring—digging, mulching, and placing rocks and native plants strategically for rain water capture and aesthetics.

At first it didn’t look like much but as the summer and fall wore on the plants blossomed and grew.  We enjoyed running outside when it was raining to see the water gushing out of the gutter/downspout and in to the rain garden where it soaked in to the ground.  We found out that we have pretty sandy soils, unusual for this area, so the water soaked in quickly.  If anything, we can divert more runoff to this garden it was so “thirsty”.  I also learned, through trial and error, what was a weed and what wasn’t.  Staying on top of the weeding is the biggest challenge now that the rain garden is in.

Solar Panels

Last summer we also decided to install solar panels.  Since we had last looked in to solar panels the cost has come down substantially.  There are also substantial tax incentives in place this year that help with the price of the panels. We got quotes, talked with colleagues and friends who had installed panels and chose an installer, Homeland.  It took over 4 months until the system was up and running but in early November we were generating electricity!  We’re still getting familiar with how it all works but we have a nice looking box in the basement that hums when we are generating energy and a website to track our power generation.  We’re looking forward to the summer when the sun really shines to see how much energy we can generate and reduce our carbon.

For You!

If you are considering home improvements, or even smaller actions that help protect the environment, HRWC promotes many of them at our Take Action pages. Our booth at the Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show, March 18-20, will feature two sustainable landscaping experts providing free information on rain gardens and native plants: Susan Bryan leader of Washtenaw County’s Rain Garden Program (Saturday) and Drew Laithin of Creating Sustainable Landscapes (Friday/Sunday).

Susan also wrote the cover story for the Spring 2016 Huron River Report, sharing success installing private rain gardens in our Swift Run Project and offering some great tips for those considering DIY rain gardens. Take a look, its a good read and will inspire you to start a rain garden movement in your neighborhood.

News to Us

DSC_2362

Volunteers collecting water quality data in Swift Run

Read articles on issues with water infrastructure in our watershed and Michigan-wide. Earlier this month the US Federal Court of Appeals made a ruling on a pesticide known to kill pollinators. Our water trail continues to make headlines. And the Swift Run creekshed is getting some special attention these days.


Ten surprising facts in Michigan’s new water strategy
In July, Michigan released a draft 30-year water strategy.  Much public discussion on the strategy has occurred since then. This is a blog written by Brad Garmon at the Michigan Environmental Commission that takes a little different look at the strategy.  Brad captures some startling statistics on the water assets Michigan owns and must steward.

Supervisor: Overuse causing discolored water in system
Lyon Township residents have been experiencing trouble with their drinking water. While the water remains safe to drink, some people are finding their water discolored. The township Supervisor attributes the color to iron in the water that occurs when backup wells are used to meet increased demand. The article highlights the issue of aging infrastructure with population growth and increasing water demand common throughout our watershed.

Michigan’s top 11 water trails named
The Huron River Water Trail was named one of the top water trails in Michigan by a public vote conducted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. But we knew that already didn’t we? Click through to see other awesome river destinations throughout the state.

Court: EPA Should Not Have Approved Bee-Killing Pesticide
A step in the right direction for the honeybee crisis. Bees and other pollinators have be in rapid decline. An agricultural chemical, sulfoxaflor, has been found to be one contributor to these declines. The lawsuit shines a spotlight on the role of federal regulators in this complex problem and will hopefully encourage more extensive testing of new chemicals before receiving EPA approval.

Swift Creek Improvements
HRWC’s Ric Lawson talks about a project we have underway to improve stormwater management and water quality in the Swift Run tributary of the Huron River.   Learn about the problems in Swift Run and the solutions HRWC, Washtenaw County and the City of Ann Arbor are supporting to improve the river.

Conservation Stewards Leadership Training

indian springsLooking for a way to expand your knowledge about ecosystems, rx invasives, and the history of conservation in Michigan?

The Michigan Conservation Stewards program has been brought back to Washtenaw County by a collaboration of HRWC and peer organizations. We hope you, capsule as a supporter of the Huron, will take the opportunity to strengthen your knowledge and thus ability to advocate for our natural resources. This 6-week course covers all the basics of conservation, tadalafil introduces participants to a wide-array of topic experts, and is a great networking opportunity.

 

Click here for details and to register.

 

 

News to Us

Rain GardenThis edition of News to Us shares articles on rainfall — how to use rain gardens to manage it, site how it carries nutrients to our waterways causing issues with algae and microcystin blooms and when extreme, how much damage it can cause.  Learn also about efforts in Ann Arbor to revitalize the riverfront and how communities throughout the nation are building climate resilience.

Washtenaw County Rain Garden Program To Be Shared Across Michigan Listen to a brief story aired on WEMU about the Washtenaw County Rain Garden program and how to learn more. Rain gardens help keep pollution and stormwater out of the Huron River increasing the health of the system. Washtenaw County is a leader in this area and can serve as a great resource for anyone interested in installing a rain garden.

Manchester-area farmers finding ways to reduce waste run-off after Lake Erie scare  A group of local farmers from the Raisin River watershed to our south, remedy spent time touring Lake Erie and discussing ways to reduce nutrient contributions from farms to the Great Lakes. Excess nutrients in the lakes contributed to the microcystin contamination of Toledo’s drinking water last month. This tour provided a unique opportunity to learn about nutrient management practices and exchange ideas among farmers.

The Green Room: River Renaissance  In a recent WEMU Green Room story, sildenafil Laura Rubin and others are interviewed to discuss the river and riverside revitalization efforts underway in the Argo area of the Huron River in Ann Arbor. Highlighting Argo Cascades and the MichCon brownfield redevelopment site, interviewees tell a story of the ups and downs associated with the river’s new found popularity.

Facing Climate Change, Cities Embrace Resiliency This article discusses community resilience – a concept emerging in cities and towns throughout the United States in response to the increased number and severity of extreme weather events.  Building resilience entails anything that improves the preparedness of a community to literally, weather the storm, minimizing damage and the threat to public health and safety. Several communities within the Huron River watershed are working to build resilience to changes we are seeing here.

Deadly Once-in-1,000-Years Rains Wipe Out Roads in Arizona, Nevada Many places across the globe are experiencing extreme rainfall events. While the Detroit area recently experienced a 100-year rain (1 % chance of occurring in any given year) parts of Arizona and Nevada experienced a rainfall event with even lower probability of occurring – some areas experience the 1000 year event (0.1% chance)! These larger evens cause extensive damage to infrastructure and personal property. Many communities are working to prepare for these larger events which are predicted to occur more frequently as the global climate warms.

Fresh wisdom available for your waterfront home!

Searching for ways to care for your waterfront?

Waterfront Wisdom, 7 tips for creating and maintaining a beautiful and healthy waterfrontMany of us put a lot of work into our homes and gardens. This summer, HRWC offers some water-friendly tips specifically for river and lake shoreline property owners!

“Waterfront Wisdom” provides helpful information regarding how to best maintain shoreline property and protect water quality at the same time. Every waterfront homeowner has a unique opportunity to help improve the health of the Huron River watershed while maintaining a beautiful shoreline and keeping waterways clean for swimming, fishing and boating.

Some of the many tips that can be found inside:

  • Minimize runoff by installing a rain garden
  • Use native plants to keep geese away
  • Prevent soil erosion by growing a natural shoreline along the water
  • Choose phosphorus-free fertilizer or avoid fertilizer altogether to help reduce algal blooms
  • Prevent excess nutrients and harmful pathogens with proper septic system maintenance

You will not only provide healthy habitat for wildlife and support recreation, but also protect drinking water.

You can download our 12 page pdf booklet here, or visit HRWC’s own Be Waterfront Wise webpage.

If you have any questions or would like a printed copy mailed to you, please contact Pam Labadie at plabadie@hrwc.org.

For Further Information:

Michigan Clean Water Corps: The Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program

Michigan’s Natural Shoreline Partnership

HRWC’s Take Action Page for all Homeowners

Master Rain Gardener Training Class Offered in March

New Year’s Resolution #1: Become a Master Rain GardenerResidential Rain Garden

Train as a Master Rain Gardener – add another skill to your portfolio – and become a resource for your neighborhood by keeping river water clean!  Rain Gardens filter and cool storm water so that our streams and rivers run clean.  It is a nonpoint solution for nonpoint source pollution.  Anyone can plant one in their own back yard.  The Washtenaw County Water Resources office has been building rain gardens for 8 years, and has built more than 140 rain gardens – we can pass along what we have learned to you.  Visit the Master Rain Gardener Hall of Fame (photos).

Thursday mornings 9:30am-12:30, February 27 – March 27, 2014.

Attendees must attend all five classes, and plant a rain garden to receive their Master Rain Gardener certificate.  

Location:  705 N. Zeeb, MSU Extension Classroom

Cost:  $90  (Scholarships available)

Instructors:  Harry Sheehan, Shannan Gibb-Randall, RLA, Susan Bryan, MLA

Questions?   Bryans@ewashtenaw.org  or 734-730-9025   www.ewashtenaw.org/raingardens

To register for the class, use the Rec & Ed registration page – click HERE.

Or, register in person/phone/mail by calling Linda Brzezinski 734-994-2300 x53203 or mailing your check and this form c/o her to: Rec & Ed, 1515 S. Seventh St, Ann Arbor MI 48103.

  • You will need to write a short paragraph answering these questions:  1) Tell us a little about your gardening experience.  2) Are you a Master Gardener? (not required) 3) Why do you want to become a Master Rain Gardener?
  • Residents of Miller Avenue (Newport to Maple), and W. Madison Street receive a discount.  E-mail bryans@ewashtenaw.org for details.

News to Us

H2O Hero, John Dingell, Laura Rubin

Friend of HRWC, Congressman John Dingell is now the longest standing member of Congress.

In this edition of our river news round up, read about river heroes from young to old, take a look back at your community through time using a new Google tool, learn what you need to know about ticks.

Muir Middle School Students Participate in Project GREEN, Clean Up Huron River Getting children out to the river is such a great way to build a connection to our environment.  A group of middle school students spent a day in the Huron cleaning up trash and taking water quality measurements.  Thanks to Mrs. Gustafson’s class at Muir Middle School in Milford for helping protect the Huron River!

A look back at modern-day John Dingell in Ann Arbor  As a clean water advocate and good friend of HRWC, we want to say congratulations to John Dingell for becoming the longest serving member of Congress.  He has been a strong advocate for the people of his district and has helped communities of the Huron River Watershed on many issues important to our quality of life.

Watch Michigan change over time using Google’s ‘Earth Engine’  Do you remember “how it used to be?” Take a look back in time with this cool new tool from Google that lets you look at your community and how it has changed over the recent decades.  Notice anything interesting, fun or sad?  Let us know in the comments.

There’s a tick boom in Michigan – Here are 5 things you should know  As many of our field volunteers can tell you, it is a bumper year for ticks in this area.  Don’t be alarmed.  Just be aware.  And use this resource and others to make sure that any ticks you may encounter did not leave behind more than an itchy bite and creepy feeling.

Preparation begins for $3.16M reconstruction of Madison Street in Old West Side  A new road project is set to include features that reduce stormwater impacts to the neighborhood residents, city infrastructure and the river.  Features like larger storm pipes and rain gardens can keep water out of our streets and basements.  The gardens, in particular also help keep pollutants and detrimental flows from reaching the Huron.  A large portion of this project is funded through Ann Arbor’s stormwater utility – a steady source of funds for proactive projects that help protect the river from stormwater impacts.

 

Become a Master Rain Gardener!

The Washtenaw County Rain Garden program has been building and planting rain gardens for 7 years, store and in that time, they have learned a thing or two about what makes them successful.  They are offering Master Rain Gardener training beginning this month.  While I have not taken the class myself, sovaldi I have seen the work of some of the graduates, and their gardens inspired my own efforts at home.

Award-winning rain garden

Becoming a rain gardener is easy!

Rain Gardens provide working Green Infrastructure for home owners to clean and cool stormwater so that our streams and rivers run clean.  Stormwater runoff is a major source of pollution, and rain gardens can help address the problem.  Anyone can plant one in their own back (or front) yard.  Visit the Master Rain Gardener Hall of Fame (photos).

Help spread the word in the tradition of the MSU Extension’s Master Gardener program by becoming a Master Rain Gardener Volunteer.

Master Rain Gardener Training Class

Wednesday mornings 9:30am-12:30, January 16 – February 13, 2013.

Attendees must attend all five classes, and plant a rain garden to receive their Master Rain Gardener “Blue Thumb” certificate.

Location: 705 N. Zeeb, MSU Extension Classroom

Cost: $80  (Scholarships available)

Instructors: Harry Sheehan, Shannan Gibb-Randall, RLA, Susan Bryan, MLA

To register, visit the Master Rain Gardener information page.

Questions? Bryans@ewashtenaw.org or 734-730-9025 www.ewashtenaw.org/raingardens

Climate Change and Fish… What will happen?

The future of fish

The future of cold-water fish, like these rainbow trout, is quite grim.

This past week I had the opportunity to attend a two-day workshop exploring the connections between streams, climate change, and fish populations.  The centerpiece of this workshop was a climate change-fish vulnerability model developed by a partnership between the US Geological Survey (USGS), Michigan State University, and state agencies in Michigan, New York, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.  This model makes predictions of how likely stream fish populations are to change under a range of climate change scenarios.  The information can be used by water resource managers trying to understanding which fish and which streams are most at risk from climate change.

Nuts and bolts of the fish vulnerability model

Global circulation models (GCMs) are used by climate scientists to make predictions about how the Earth’s climate is going to change in the future.  There are a wide variety of GCMs, all based on differing assumptions, and as a result they produce different results in terms of the predicted rates of climate change.  Interestingly, all of the models do share some commonalities:

  • The Earth is warming
  • Winter is going to warm more than the summer
  • Winters will be wetter
  • The northern US will warm more than the south
  • Inland areas will warm more than along coastlines
  • Extreme events will be more common

The fish vulnerability model produced by the USGS and its partners uses ten of these differing GCMs and combines their climate predictions with predictions of fish presence and absence.  An example is the best way to show how this works. Let’s say a particular stream holds brook trout currently.  Due to temperature increases and changes in water flow by 2050, this stream is predicted to have lost the fish  under GCMs #1-7.  However, under GCMs #8-10, the fish is still expected to remain in the creek.  Therefore, 7 out of the 10 climate change scenarios predict that the fish will be eliminated from this creek by the year 2050.  The fish’s vulnerability to climate-change is said to be 70% for this particular stream.

The USGS and its partners ran this model across the Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota for 14 species of fish (i.e. brook trout, brown trout, mottled sculpin, northern pike, smallmouth bass, common carp, etc).  For each fish and on every stream in these states, they have produced a predicted vulnerability for that species- the percentage chance that the fish will disappear in the future.

Management implications

If the model predicts a fish to be missing from a stream under all 10 of the GCMs, this means that even under lenient climate change scenarios, this fish will disappear and managing this stream for the preservation of the fish is most likely to be a lost cause.  The predicted vulnerability of this fish in this stream is 100%.

If the model predicts a fish to be present in a stream under all 10 GCMs, this indicates that this fish is very resilient against climate change, or that the stream is not expected to change much, even under the most severe climate change scenarios.  Managers can leave these streams alone; the predicted vulnerability of this fish in this stream is 0%.

However, if the model predicts that under some GCMs the fish will leave, and under other GCMs that the fish will stay, then water resource managers have something to work with.  This model result means that the stream may be borderline for the fish in the future, and managers have a chance to keep the fish there if they can work towards making the stream more “climate change resilient”. Management activities should center on promoting rainfall infiltration and groundwater recharge.  Activities like building rain gardens, maintaining and expanding our natural areas, and reducing the amount of impervious surface will provide greater opportunity for rain to percolate into the ground rather than running overland to the stream.

Groundwater is the key to climate change resiliency because in the summer when fish populations are most stressed due to high water temperatures and low rainfall, groundwater inputs maintain flow and cooler temperatures. Groundwater temperature is usually the same as the average annual air temperature because of the length of time the water spends underground.  Therefore in the summer, groundwater is relatively cold as compared to surface water. Also, groundwater is released consistently to the stream, unlike sporadic rainfall, thus giving constant flow even under drought conditions.

Stay Tuned…

The USGS  is in the process of developing  a web-based map to display their model results so that the information can be readily used by water resource managers.  This web-based map and the model results are not ready for public consumption, but I will post a link from this blog when it is.


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