rain

Photo shows the inside of a culvert. It's square with concrete walls and a very shallow stream of water is running through it.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

Climate change is likely to bring more extreme rainfall and flooding to Michigan, so flood risk in the next 100 years will probably look very different than in the past.

Much of Michigan’s infrastructure — like culverts, bridges and storm drains — is still being designed and built based on the floods of the past.


Peter Payette / I

Fruit growers in northern Michigan are having a tough time with all the rain this year, because that moisture helps fungus and bacteria thrive.

If it looks like your parched lawn is crying out for a drink, you've got company.

Parts of the state are in the grips of a dry spell, and it's turning lawns crispy and brown. 

All that rain we've had isn't just making our lawns and flowers grow.

Howard Russell is an entomologist with Michigan State University, and he says that the booming mosquito population is directly related to the rain.

We can't prevent an extreme weather event like the deluge that flooded some streets in Metro Detroit last week. However, we can prepare for them. But how?

Crain’s Detroit Business Lansing reporter Chris Gautz did some research, and found that green infrastructure could be the answer. By using sustainable methods, he says we could keep water from getting to storm drains.

Some examples:

·         Pervious concrete - allows water to drain through the concrete into the ground

·         Gray water recycling systems -  water can be reused in sprinkler systems.

·         Green roofs or rain gardens - the water is used instead of going down the drain

Guatz wrote in his article that the inherent weakness in our current storm system is the amount of concrete covering the ground.

When parking lots were developed, the idea was to get the water off the parking lot as fast as possible. So they're designed to force the water into the drains.

“Go look out at a big parking lot and think when it rains, that rain can’t go into that concrete,” Gautz said. “It’s got to go somewhere, and it’s going into your basements.”

Gautz quoted a 2001 report from SEMCOG that found between $14 billion and $26 billion would be needed by 2030 to maintain and improve the sewer infrastructure.

Gautz said that now is the time to implement new strategies for future weather events.

“You know these pipes are getting older and the system is getting older, and you keep putting that much pressure on it and eventually something could break,” Gautz said.

*Listen to the full interview with Chris Gautz above.