Ottawa’s water aquifers provide emphasis for concern, state policies


Recognition of Earth Day around the country will include thousands of activities and community demonstrations specifying various aspects of sustainability and pride of association. That’s a good thing, considering that, as recently as 2011, one local seminar was titled “Sustainability: Trend or Fad?”

Not long prior to 2011, environmental scientists providing evidence of scarce natural resources were dismissed as “tree huggers,” even as Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught on fire. Such scurrilous name calling is now reserved for those measuring global warming.

Grand Rapids Business Journal includes reporting updates on environmental issues of concern — every week and daily at — and in two stories of particular interest this week focusing on water, Michigan’s most precious resource. One need not look to California for headlines of drying aquifers, but to Ottawa County.

The story on page 1, “Ottawa County feeling the water pressure,” reports on Grand Valley State University Annis Water Resources Institute’s prolonged studies that now show static water level declines of 30 to 40 feet. Michigan’s agricultural businesses are the primary users of the subterranean groundwater supply. Unlike California, Michigan has enacted laws to measure and regulate the amount of water pumped from aquifers.

The same story reports that some agricultural operations are beginning to move north from southern Michigan. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, margins of the planting zones across the country shifted northward “ever so subtly” over the past few decades “in response to warming climate.” Alan Steinman, Annis Water Resources Institute director, noted more water can be withdrawn from aquifers up north, without impacting fish, because more water is replaced there.

The Business Journal report on Michigan’s blue economy by the Michigan Economic Center provides a new analysis and planning points for further action by the state and local policy groups. The wide-ranging study makes nine recommendations for new technologies and water innovations, startups and catalyst organizations, and partnerships to build the blue economy. The study concludes the recommendations put Michigan on a path to become a global “center of freshwater innovation.”

Such preparation is an obvious antithesis to the story in California, where long-term economic impact and the cost of doing business continues to escalate.

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