In the Great Lakes, we drive to get where we are going. And with tens of thousands of lane-miles of roadway across the basin, in both urban areas and rural areas, the impact of all of that hard surface on our waterways adds up.
“If you look at the roads just in Toronto, and you put those roads end-to-end, they would extend from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Vancouver and back,” says Christine Zimmer, a senior manager of watershed protection and restoration for the Credit Valley Conservation Authority, a watershed advocacy group based in Mississauga, Ontario, and project adviser for the Greater Lakes initiative. “And they have an impact on our waterways. But it’s also a huge opportunity to do things better.”
The Greater Lakes project, managed by the Great Lakes Commission and funded by the Great Lakes Protection Fund, is striving to seize that opportunity. It’s doing so by helping local government agencies and watershed managers meet the challenge of dealing with stormwater runoff by thinking of it in a new way. They’re encouraging municipalities and citizens to see stormwater runoff not just as a problem to be dealt with, but as a resource that can be better utilized to benefit the Great Lakes ecosystem.
All across the country the infrastructure to treat stormwater runoff from roads and highways is antiquated–designed to get water off roadways as quickly as possible with little regard for its impact on local ecosystems. Think pipes, roadside ditches and big stormwater ponds. The sheer volume of water that drains off roadways into waterways is often delivered as quickly as possible to local ponds, rivers or lakes, with no method of either treating it or slowing it down.
The result? Erosion of local waterways, water pollution, damage to fish habitat, and flooding. –(November 2015) by Nina Ignaczak in MetroMode, Metro Detroit magazine.