Protecting Leelanau’s Clean Water–How You Can Help
“The one thing that binds us together and assures our economic vitality is water. If we lost our quality of water, or even if there was a perception of the loss of our quality of water, we would lose an enormous amount of our appeal. It would affect our property values, our lifestyle and our economy. What if we were to put together a group of people from all of the different organizations that have to do with water quality, determine a baseline of what is being done and then come up with a vision of how to ensure that future generations will enjoy the kind of water quality that we do?” –County Commissioner Bob Hawley at the very first “Leelanau Clean Water” (LCW) meeting in 2008.
Interestingly, when LCW was formed, the Leelanau Conservancy had already spent 15+ years monitoring and recording water quality on seven county lakes and their tributaries. Our work fit right in with the group’s goals to protect water resources, to promote public awareness of issues that threaten our water, and to provide information so that the public could take part in decision-making. And so we have partnered with LCW and served on their board ever since
Every summer, staff and volunteers collect samples which monitor elements such as phosphorus and nitrogen (both promote algae growth). The data is entered into a database housed on our website which shows trends over time. The Conservancy shares this data annually with the lake associations, universities and local groups including Leelanau’s Board of Commissioners in the hopes that the data will impact decision making that helps rather than hurts our water quality.
In 2017, a student at Grand Valley State University analyzed 25 years of our data and issued a report. GVSU Professor Megan Woller-Skar (who also served as Leelanau Conservancy’s Stewardship Director from 2001-2005) summarized the findings:
“Results showed the highest concentrations of nutrients in the early 1990s. Overall, it looks like there has been improvement in water quality (nutrients) since then. You would expect change over 25 years in any data set, and in this case we are doing better. However, we need to look at the system as a whole, not just the nutrient results.”
“Depth matters: with increasing temperatures, shallower lakes warm sooner and stay warm for a longer period of time. There were also trends noticed seasonally. Every lake shows higher levels of nutrients in the spring versus the summer or fall. Spring snow-melt likely causes increases in nutrients from non-point sources like run-off from farms, septic systems and manicured lawns. The warming trend, combined with increased human use, may cause algal blooms to increase.”
What You Can Do to Protect Leelanau’s Water
- Pump your septic system every three years
- Establish a buffer of plants between your home and the water to absorb runoff pollutants
- Don’t fertilize your lawn; use lake water to irrigate
- Reduce E. Coli bacteria by not feeding waterfowl
- Clean up all the pet waste near water
- Haul leaves way from shore; don’t rake them into water
- Power wash our boat after leaving every water body to prevent spreading invasive species
- Dispose of motor oil, paint and household chemicals at hazardous waste collections: call 256-9812
Source: Leelanau Clean Water
Save the Date! Leelanau Clean Water – Water Quality Consortium Wednesday, June 13
The Leelanau Conservancy is partnering with Leelanau Clean Water to host a Water Quality Consortium to showcase the water quality data collected in Leelanau County. Learn what it all means and how we can set county-wide goals to maintain and improve water quality in our five major watersheds. Please save the date for Wednesday, June 13, 2018 from 11-2 at the Leelanau School. More details to come.