A Watershed Moment
“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.
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Pop quiz: What’s the leading source of pollution in West Michigan?
If you said stormwater runoff, you're right.
Stormwater runoff is the leading source of water pollution in West Michigan and in the Great Lakes Watershed in general. In Grand Rapids, it takes as little as 15 minutes for stormwater runoff to reach the Grand River or a comparable waterway, and from there it’s off to Lake Michigan, with pollutants it picked up along the way.
“Stormwater runoff is rainwater that cannot soak into the ground naturally because it falls on hard, impervious surface like concrete and cement,” said Anthony Puzzuoli, Community Service Coordinator at West Michigan Environmental Action Council. “That water, because it can’t soak in, has to go somewhere, so it enters into our stormwater system. That water is unfiltered, it’s unclean and it’s going directly to Lake Michigan.”
WMEAC’s rain barrel program is a grassroots effort to educate the community and help reduce stormwater pollution in the region. Rain barrels are large containers that attach to the downspout of a house and collect rainwater that lands on the roof. This water can then be used to water a garden or to fill up a watering can to water house plants.
On average, says Puzzuoli, a rain barrel will collect between 800 and 2,000 gallons of water each year.
“These barrels really do make a big difference, especially when you think about the fact that we’ve distributed over 1,500 rain barrels since we started this program in 2009,” said Puzzuoli. “This year we’ve distributed more rain barrels than we have in any of the previous years. We are on pace to distribute 1,000 barrels this year, so that will be a good year for us here at WMEAC and the environment.”
If you are interested about learning more about stormwater runoff or attending a rain barrel workshop, you can register online at wmeac.org. The next rain barrel workshop will be held at 7 p.m. on Thurs., July 26, at the Kent City Shade Structure in downtown Kent City.