Green Infrastructure images, green roof, permeable pavement and a rain barrel

Stormwater runoff from rain or melting snow can negatively affect water quality in nearby streams, rivers, and lakes. Impervious surfaces like roads, parking lots, and buildings prevent runoff from penetrating into soil, leading to flooding and erosion. This runoff can then carry pollutants, pathogens, litter, and sediment to waterbodies, leading to algae blooms, declining ecosystem health, beach closings, and no-swim advisories.

Traditionally, Michigan communities have managed this stormwater through “grey infrastructure” approaches, such as storm drains, sewer pipes, and basins, and other approaches that are often expensive and complex. Green infrastructure, however, uses vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage this runoff.

A new report from a Michigan Sea Grant-funded research team summarizes the challenges to implementing green infrastructure and highlights key initiatives and pilot projects for green infrastructure in Michigan.

The report, Green Infrastructure in Michigan: An Integrated Assessment of Its Use, Barriers, and Opportunities, was produced by Don Carpenter of Lawrence Technological University, Sanjiv Sinha from Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc., and Avik Basu at the University of Michigan. They found that barriers to implementation of these projects include conflicting codes and ordinances, cost, lack of financing, maintenance, municipal and public acceptance, lack of regional planning, and uncertainty in performance. The report also highlights how these challenges can be overcome.

The research team engaged over one thousand community leaders, professionals, and engaged citizens across the state in gathering this information.