Storm Water: WMU Water Resources

Storage drain systems

Goldsworthy Valley Pond in the spring

Goldsworth Valley Pond

Rainwater and snowmelt on Western's campus flow into the storm drain system through curb inlets and catch basins. All dirt, oil, trash, and salt from roads, parking lots, and sidewalks are also swept into these drains. The water from main campus flows through 18 miles of underground pipes until it empties out in one of several places. Some water empties into Goldsworth Valley Pond which drains into Arcadia Creek and finally into the Kalamazoo River. Some pipes empty directly into Arcadia Creek, which lies on the south edge of main campus by Stadium Drive. Water also flows into the city's storm drain system that empties into Arcadia Creek before flowing into the Kalamazoo River. No matter where the stormwater comes from on campus, it all ends up in the Kalamazoo River, and flows out to Lake Michigan. 

Arcadia Creek watershed

A watershed is defined by the Stormwater Manager's Resource Center as all the land area that contributes runoff to a particular point along a waterway. We are part of the Arcadia Creek Watershed because stormwater from WMU's main campus flows to Arcadia Creek. The entire Arcadia Creek watershed is part of the Kalamazoo River watershed, which is part of the Great Lakes watershed. The Kalamazoo River watershed stretches about from Jackson to Saugatuck and comprises a total of eight counties.

For more information visit Kalamazoo Watershed Communities. WMU also has the Asylum Lake Preserve and Parkview Campus that lie in the West Fork of the Portage Creek Watershed.

Western Michigan University permit

WMU currently has a general permit for stormwater discharges issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality that is designed to limit contamination that is discharged and protect surface waters. The primary goal of WMU's permit is to improve water quality in our area (i.e. Arcadia Creek and subsequently, the Kalamazoo River).

WMU must participate and work with other entities in the watershed to develop a watershed management plan (WMP)WMU must also provide annual reports on the status and effectiveness of the permit. The general stormwater permit requires WMU to (a) work with local stakeholders in the development of a watershed management plan, (b) develop and implement an illicit discharge detection program on WMU's campus, and (c) develop and implement a public education program. To meet these requirements, WMU has been actively involved in the Arcadia/Portage Creek 319 Project and the Kalamazoo County Stormwater Workgroup. The goals of the watershed management development project are:

  • Provide for community stakeholder participation.
  • Assess water pollution concerns.
  • Build on ongoing efforts having to do with storm water issues as well as watershed issues.
  • Monitoring capable of providing information necessary for effective watershed planning; i.e. water quality of outfalls, Arcadia Creek and Goldsworth Pond, as well as noting where pollution may be coming from.
  • Develop solutions on a watershed basis.
  • Develop an approved watershed management plan.
  • Capitalize on objectives, needs and issues associated with current and future programs for participants.
  • Create a web-based approach to communicate all key project elements.
  • Educate public on issues with storm water and what they can do to reduce their effects.

The Office of Environmental Health and Safety and Facilities Management are primarily involved in implementing the requirements of the permit. In the summer of 2002, Facilities Management began implementing an illicit discharge detection program by surveying all outfalls during dry weather. If water is draining from these outfalls when there has been no rain, an illicit connection is somewhere in the system. An outfall is defined as the point where wastewater or drainage discharges from a sewer pipe, ditch, or other conveyance to a receiving body of water.

outdoor scene

No mow zone

Landscape Services is working on a project to renew the ecosystem in Goldsworth Valley Pond. They are also working with Environmental Health and Safety to educate landscape employees on proper pesticide application and lawn maintenance. These measures help prevent pesticides and cut grass from entering the storm drain system. In the spring of 2002, a 'No Mow Zone,' also known as a 'buffer zone,' was established around Goldsworth Valley Pond and along Arcadia Creek. This 'buffer-zone' functions as a filter of water as it goes over the surface before it gets to the pond or creek.

In 2003, WMU installed two signs as educational tools to raise awareness of protecting valuable water resources. One of the signs is located at Oliver Street over Arcadia Creek, which is by the Kanley Track. The other is at Goldsworth Valley Pond, by the bridge.

In June of 2003, WMU began a shoreline restoration project around Goldsworth Valley Pond. WMU's Campus Arborist, Chad Avery, received grant money for the project and help from students and volunteers to complete the first phase of this project.  The effort continued with additional grant money and incorporating student projects in 2004.  In 2003, in an effort to reduce erosion along Arcadia Creek and flooding of surrounding properties, the height of Goldsworth Valley Pond was raised. This allowed for the retention of additional stormwater and also installed piping to help control the rate of the flow of water to the creek.

It is important to monitor the storm drains across campus as well as develop a campus-wide reporting system for suspicious discharges, eliminate illicit discharges, and share our data with others in our watershed who are also working to improve water quality. This ensures that nothing harmful to our aquatic ecosystems or our drinking water enters our state surface waters.

Asylum Lake

Environmental Health and Safety is active in educating the campus community on the dangers of improper hazardous waste disposal and how to protect our surface water and groundwater supplies. Every person on campus has a role in assisting with the implementation of the requirements of the stormwater permit. 

Runoff water treatment

There are two piping systems that collect water: a storm drain system and a sanitary sewer system. The sanitary sewers mainly connect to buildings and collect water that is not clean enough to empty directly into local water systems, such as water from toilets, bathtubs, or sinks. This water flows to a wastewater treatment plant where solids are removed and the water is chemically disinfected before being released, safe for fish and riparian wildlife.

Storm drain catch basins (the grates along the edges of the roads and parking lots) direct stormwater to local creeks, streams, rivers, ponds, retention basins and lakes. This water is not treated before emptying into nearby creeks, streams, rivers, lakes or retention basins from impervious surfaces (surfaces such as driveways, roof tops and parking lots that do not absorb water). Stormwater infiltrates permeable surfaces and goes into the ground and to the groundwater before slowly discharging to the creeks. Materials on the surface of impervious materials, such as oils, nutrients, solids and a variety of debris are typically caught up and transported in the sudden rush of water called the first flush. The only stormwater that is treated before ending up in a river is that which goes through a retention basin or wetlands area where the stormwater can effectively be filtered naturally. However, harmful chemicals in the stormwater collected in retention basins can also infiltrate to the groundwater supply.

Importance of water

Water is one of the basic needs of human beings, and life in general on this planet, and yet it is also one of the most taken for granted. This is especially true in Michigan where there is an abundance of lakes, rivers and streams. Because we have so much water, it is our responsibility to keep it healthy and clean for now and many generations to come.

It is important to realize that many areas get a portion of their drinking water from rivers, lakes, and streams and that water is also discharged from the waste treatment plant into these water bodies. Therefore, anything we put on the ground will most likely end up in those rivers, lakes and streams.

Drinking water pollution sources

Point source pollution—25 percent

  • Factories
  • Waste water treatment plants

Non-Point source pollution—75 percent

  • Lawn Care
  • Car Repair
  • Agriculture
  • Household Cleaning
  • Pet Waste
  • Hobbies
  • Home Maintenance
  • Yard Runoff

Clarification of water as a renewable resource

To say that water is a renewable resource is a misleading statement. Water does evaporate from the earth's surface, fall as rain, and evaporate again to continue the cycle. However, most of our surface water is saltwater. A significant portion of the surface freshwater is used for agriculture and as a cooling agent for power-producing equipment. Any surface water that we do drink must be treated first which takes a lot of energy. What we do not get from our surface water, we take from our groundwater supplies, found in aquifers deep within the earth and created by surface water that has trickled down slowly over many years. This water is usually the cleanest and supplies almost all the drinking water to some areas. All of Kalamazoo County relies solely on groundwater for their drinking water supply. Unfortunately, we (in the U.S.) use this water faster than it can be replaced (recharge ranges from 29.6-97 percent according to USGS Open-File Report 96-593) and therefore, risk making that resource not easily renewable in the future. However, to curb over-anxiousness, Michigan has more groundwater than almost any state in the U.S.