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New report highlights broad impact of water on Michigan’s economy

Grand Rapids section of The Grand River
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Rails to Trails Conservancy

In Michigan, at least one in five jobs is tied to water. That’s according to a new report released today.

Transportation, ports, and shipping contribute more than 65,000 jobs and $3 billion to the economy each year.

The Michigan Blue Economy report was put together by the Annis Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University and the Michigan Economic Center at Prima Civitas.

Alan Steinman co-authored the report and directs AWRI. He says the economic impact will likely grow as more communities try to improve and better use their waterfronts.

“Because historically we used the water as our sewer,” Steinman said. “We dumped all our crap in there and our factories were there and the downtowns were facing away from the water.”

“As communities start to – instead of turning their backs to the water, turn their fronts to the water – all that will generate additional revenue,” he said.

Steinman makes a number of recommendations to use Michigan’s water resources better and more responsibly, including a fund for new water technologies and creating a new state office of water to help revamp regulations and encourage new water technology businesses.

He says they’re hoping to get people to think about water use differently. like separating high-quality drinking water from the water that’s used to flush your toilet or water your lawn.

“In 50 years people will turn back and say ‘can you believe they were using this incredibly valuable resource to flush their waste?’ I mean it’s insane,” he said. 

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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