Living Sustainably: Rain, rain go away – the right way

LIVING SUSTAINABLY:  Rain, rain go away – the right way

By Kelly Goward, Macatawa Area Coordinating Council

What happens to water when it rains? We’re glad you asked!
Rain, or stormwater, that lands on trees, shrubs, flowers, and grass is slowed down and soaks into the soil (well, most of it). However, when rain falls on roof tops, driveways, roads, and parking lots, it runs off the surface into catch basins that are connected to pipes that deliver stormwater to streams, drains or
directly to Lake Macatawa.
But stormwater is treated before it ends up in the lake, right? Unfortunately, not.
Any pollution that is on the land, like fertilizers, dirt, oil, gasoline, grass clippings, and trash, can be carried away by stormwater and end up in the lake. Catch basins trap heavier materials and floatables that the city can clean out, but they don’t catch everything. Yuck!
So, is there a better way to manage stormwater? Absolutely!

Remember what happens to rain when it lands on plants? It slows down and soaks into the ground, allowing pollution to be trapped or filtered before rain makes its way to groundwater, streams and Lake Macatawa.
Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) is anything that mimics these natural processes of slowing, filtering and soaking rain into the ground. GSI includes rain gardens, bioswales, permeable pavement, rain barrels, and more.
So, if green stormwater infrastructure is better for Lake Macatawa, why don’t we use it more? The City of Holland and the surrounding areas are starting to use more stormwater infrastructure, but there is much more that can be done. The Macatawa Area Coordinating Council (MACC) recently received a grant from the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area to develop a GSI vision for the Macatawa Watershed that will be completed later this fall.
The MACC is also working with local units of government to make sure policies, codes and ordinances are friendly to green stormwater infrastructure and to educate decision makers and planners about the practice.
One event that will help is coming in August. The MACC, in partnership with the City of Holland, the Ottawa County Water Resources Commissioner and the Allegan County Drain Commissioner, is hosting a green stormwater infrastructure seminar at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center, 9 a.m. to
3:30 p.m. on Aug. 22.
The seminar will focus on how the beneficial measures can be included in site designs. There will also be updates on local initiatives and discussions about the drivers and barriers to implementing these practices in our communities. This seminar is for engineers, contractors, developers, landscape architects,
water quality professionals, elected officials and decision makers, planners, conservation professionals, and anyone from throughout the West Michigan Region interested in learning more about green
stormwater infrastructure!
The seminar is eligible for 3.5 professional development hour credits for professional engineers.
Registration fees apply. Visit to find out more or to register.
 Kelly Goward has been with the Macatawa Watershed Project since August 2012, managing efforts to improve the water quality of Lake Macatawa. She has a B.S. in biology from Grand Valley State University and a master’s degree in natural resources management from Ball State University.


Smallenburg.jpg — Intentional plantings, such as this rain garden at Holland’s Smallenburg Park, hold and capture rain water so it soaks into the ground, helping limit runoff that carries pollutants into Lake Macatawa.
HPS permeable.jpg A West Michigan Green Infrastructure Conference tour studies permeable pavement at Holland High School, one method of slowing down rainwater and avoiding polluted runoff into Lake Macatawa.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Community & Neighborhood: The places we live and the individuals we interact with support the development of our personalities and perspectives on life. Encouraging vital and effective communities is essential.

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
institute for more information.