Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2013MI223B

Building Capacity within Township Planning Commissions to Facilitate Water User Committees in the context of Michigan's Water Withdrawal Assessment Program

Institute: Michigan
Year Established: 2013 Start Date: 2013-03-01 End Date: 2014-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $10,401 Total Non-Federal Funds: $20,800

Principal Investigators: David Lusch

Abstract: Problem No community water user committees have yet been established in the context of Michigan’s Water Withdrawal Assessment Program. Although the statute stipulated that the MDEQ should facilitate the formation and education of water user committees, there has been little or no funding allocated to the agency to support this role. To date, no procedure about who should convene the committee and how to do it has been developed. Essentially, local water users are left to their own devices to figure it out. Although legal water rights dictate that only the property owners have “standing” in such decisions, the broader community certainly has a stake in the outcome. As such, it is proposed that local planning commissions take the lead in establishing and facilitating local water user committees. To be effective in this role, however, the capacity of local planning commissions requires substantial enhancement. Methods A pool of candidate pilot townships will be chosen on the basis of documentation of a notable expansion of agricultural irrigation in the past 5 years coupled with the concurrence of the MDEQ, Water Withdrawal Assessment Program administrators that groundwater availability in the area is limited due to impending adverse resource impacts associated with expanded large-quantity withdrawals. The township planning commissions will be contacted to determine their willingness and capacity to actively establish and facilitate at least one water user committee. If more than one township planning commission expresses interest, the one with the largest potential committee membership will be selected. In consultation with the local planning commission, county-specific and township-focused educational materials about the local groundwater resources will be developed and delivered. In consultation with the members of the two water users committees, county-specific and watershed-focused educational materials about the local groundwater resources will be developed and delivered. Objectives • Within St. Joseph County and Tuscola County, use data from the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool, the GWIM project and other sources to evaluate the likely impact of agricultural irrigation expansion by township. Use these insights to select two pilot townships, one in each county. • Develop place-based educational materials aimed at building the capacity of local planning officials to promote and facilitate local water user committees. • Develop educational materials aimed at water user committee members in the two pilot areas.