Living Sustainably: Workshop focuses on watershed and quality of life

By Jessica Vander Ark, West Michigan Environmental Action Council

For those who grew up or live in Holland, Lake Michigan, Lake Macatawa, and the tributary streams that flow into them are a powerful focal point of our lives. We visit the parks and beaches, swim, kayak, enjoy bonfires and picnics, fish off the piers and docks, and ride in our boats.
The water is a main ingredient in our quality of life.
But how does a community rise to the responsibility of preserving that freshwater resource and ensure a quality of life for current and future generations?

Quality of Life: The Macatawa Watershed” is the focus of the next Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore workshop, coming Sept. 12 at Herrick District Library in Holland 6:30pm

The presentation will help answer that question.

Consider that everyone lives in a watershed, and everyone’s actions can impact it either positively or negatively.
A watershed is an area of land where all the water – surface and groundwater – flows into the lowest point, such as a stream, river, or lake. It’s like a sink: Water drains down to the bottom carrying dirt, soap, and anything else it encounters.
That is also how a watershed works, with the drain being the stream or river. And different things happen to the rainwater, depending where it lands.
When rain lands on natural or green, porous spaces like trees and landscaping, it soaks in and recharges groundwater supplies. When water lands on hard, developed surfaces, it runs downhill, carrying pollutants with it.
Why do we care if water soaks in or runs off? Because those pollutants are full of sediment, fertilizers, pathogens, and litter, which can cause troubles for Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan.
Nobody wants to fish, kayak or swim in green, smelly, polluted water – and that impacts our quality of life.
So, what do all of us living in this watershed need to know?
First, take time to interact with waterways. Appreciate where we live and all the opportunities our watersheds provide, especially for quality of life.
Then pay attention to where the rain goes where you live, work, and go to school. Grab an umbrella and watch the water flow. Once you know where the runoff is, the next step is to follow the motto, “Slow it down, spread it out, and soak it in.”
There are several ways to do that, like using native plants in landscaping, using rain barrels to capture rain from your roof, or limiting impermeable surfaces.
The Living Sustainably presentation will share more about those methods and other ways to embrace our Great Lakes culture and quality of life.
 Jessica Vander Ark is the director of environmental education at West Michigan Environmental Action Council

drain.jpg Storm drains lead directly to rivers and lakes, so never dump anything down the drains.

students.jpg Students in Ottawa County learn about the effects of stormwater pollution on their watersheds.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Quality of Life: The community, through governmental, religious, business and social organizations, makes decisions that contribute to its own well-being.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.