Michigan Water Science Center
What's New? (12/21/2012)
Table of Contents
The USGS and federal, state, and local agencies cooperatively design and fund monitoring networks, interpretive projects, and research studies that support the missions and information needs of the funding agencies. Most of the funding for monitoring networks comes from state and local agencies; the USGS Federal-State Cooperative Program funds about one third of the monitoring. Most interpretive projects and research are similarly funded, but some are funded wholly by USGS national programs or other federal agencies.
Monitoring networks include streamflow, inland-lake levels, ground-water levels, stream-water quality, and inland-lake water quality. All data from these networks can be accessed via these Web pages; most of the flow and level data are available in near-real-time. Monitoring locations are agreed upon cooperatively by the USGS and co-funding agencies.
About 5.2 million people in Michigan, 56 percent of the population, drink water from surface-water sources, especially the Great Lakes. Only six other states have more people drinking water from surface-water sources. Michigan has about 1320 community public supplies from ground-water sources, and over 10,000 non-community public supplies; only two states have more non-community public supplies from ground water. Projects typically provide information on source areas for drinking water, natural water quality, or susceptibility to contamination.
Human activities affect the quality of surface and ground water throughout Michigan. Point sources of pollution, for instance from discharges and spills, are regulated, and many issues related to these sources are addressed by state and federal agencies. In contrast, non-point sources of pollution, typically related to application of potential contaminants to the land surface, are poorly understood. The processes by which these contaminants reach streams and ground-water are often complex. Projects typically provide information on the relation of land use to water quality, sources of pollutants, or trends in water quality.
Addition of low-permeability surfaces, installation of drainage systems, expansion of waste-water treatment plants, and many other modifications to land use have substantial and often undesirable effects on the timing and volume of surface-water flow. Common results of modifying the land surface are increased flooding during storms and decreased flow during dry periods. Understanding the relation between land-use change and runoff characteristics can help managers and planners make informed decisions. Currently, the USGS does not have any interpretive projects or research related to this science issue.
Many groups and agencies in the Nation are interested in restoring natural flow regimes in watersheds that have been significantly altered by humans. In most cases, the alteration is caused by dams. In the Great Lakes area, there are significant pressures on state and federal agencies to remove obsolete dams. While dam removal has the potential benefit of restoring habitat and fisheries, there are serious obstacles and issues. There are thousands of low-head dams are in the Great Lakes area, and each costs at least hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove. Many dams serve as efficient obstacles to the upstream migration of invasive aquatic nuisance species and others keep large volumes of contaminated sediment from destroying downstream habitat. Projects typically provide information on the probable effects of dam removal, including river profile, flood-prone areas, the fate of sediments, or habitat changes.
Water may be more plentiful in Michigan than anywhere in the world. Still, there are often competing uses for water, including municipal, commercial, and residential water supply, irrigation needs, mine dewatering, and support of aquatic habitat. Short-term dry conditions or long-term climate change may cause water shortages to be more severe than normal. Projects typically provide information on streamflow, ground-water levels, aquifer locations and characteristics, water use, or effects of climate change.
There are significant science needs that the USGS must address in the Great Lakes Region, especially with respect to watershed and near-shore processes. Some needs are addressed by specific projects and others by full participation in the major meetings of Great Lakes science, advisory, regulatory, and policy groups. The District makes a large annual commitment to the latter. Projects typically information on ground-water contributions to the Great Lakes, contamination of beaches by bacteria, water use, or monitoring design.
Millions are spent annually by the private sector and state or federal agencies on remediating contaminated sites in Michigan, yet many fundamental hydrogeologic, microbiological, and chemical processes that affect remediation are poorly understood. USGS work at these sites typically is funded either by research funds, such as the USGS Toxics Substances Hydrology Program, or by a state or federal regulatory agency, such as USEPA. Work for regulatory agencies is typically driven by the need to provide objective and unbiased science that can help clarify and mediate litigious issues.
Some USGS scientists in Michigan help design and direct certain aspects of USGS national programs, such as the Ground-Water Resources Program, the National Water-Quality Assessment Program, the National Streamflow Information Program, and the Toxics Substances Hydrology Program.