Grit Blogs > A Lakeside View

Water Stewardship Program

By Cindy Murphy


Tags: Earth Day, Water Stewardship, Water Conservation, Great Lakes, On-line Courses, Cindy Murphy,

 Earth Day is right around the corner, and many of us are already striving to live in a more sustainable way, and understand how our actions affect the planet and future generations. 

Kalamazoo River 

 I consider myself “green-minded,” to include water conservation and water stewardship.  Instead of bottled water, we fill reusable containers with tap water, and only run the dishwasher and washing machine with full loads.  I don’t fertilize my lawn out of concern run-off will get into the creek on my property, which flows directly into Lake Michigan.  Shoot - I don’t even water the lawn, letting it go dormant in the hottest months.  I include elements of xeriscaping in much of my landscape, and we have a rain barrel to water all the potted plants and flower boxes.  We could use 2 or 3 more barrels, actually, for use in the vegetable garden.  Yes, there is always room for improvement, but I thought I was doing pretty well.  Then I took a water conservation survey, and received a paltry score of 65 out of 100 possible points (a couple of aging vehicles, and my and my teenage daughter’s penchant for long, hot showers are downfalls).  The survey labeled me “olive green.”

I don’t consider olive green to be a particularly pretty color.  Obviously, some changes are needed, so I decided to take an on-line training program in water stewardship.

The survey and the training program are offered on a website developed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and both the Eaton and Van Buren Conservation Districts.  The aim of Michigan Water Stewardship Program is to improve local water quality and to protect the Great Lakes, but is applicable to anyone anywhere interested in having a better understanding about how to conserve and safeguard water.  Stating that “everyone can’t do everything, but everyone can do something,” the site presents simple changes and steps that any homeowner can make to benefit our world’s water supply.

Stormy Lake Michigan 

The free on-line training program can be found on the site’s “Environmental Campus”.  The program’s objectives are to help residents identify environmental concerns in and around their homes, to help both save money and better manage natural water resources by encouraging them to preventive actions to safeguard the environment.

Sixteen courses are offered in the program, each taking only 5 to 10 minutes to complete, covering topics such as watersheds, managing your home for energy savings, and preventing environmental risks in your yard.   Each course consists of a lesson, and a multiple choice assessment.  It’s extremely user-friendly, allowing you to pick-and-choose specific courses that interest you, take them in no particular order, and review if needed.  The really nice thing about how this is designed is that the assessments can be taken before and/or after completing the lesson.  It can also be revisited at later dates as many times as you wish in order to mark your progress over time as you implement some of the strategies within the course.

In addition to the “Environmental Campus”, the easy-to-navigate website is packed with loads of information.  If you’d rather not take the stewardship program, in the homeowners section you’ll find tips for making easy and positive environmental changes; in the category of “Youth Steward” there are videos, games, and activities.  Under the heading “Educators”, there are classroom activities and lesson plans.  And of course, there’s the “How Green Are You?” water survey….

It was Kermit the frog who said, “It’s not easy being green”; it takes some effort to break old habits.  Any effort is worthwhile, though, to shed the drab olive, and grow to be a bright, verdant green instead.

Black River and Lake Michigan Sunset 

If you’d like to become a water steward, check out Michigan Water Stewardship Program.

Happy Earth Day! How do you plan to celebrate?

cindy murphy
5/1/2011 9:44:47 PM

Thanks for commenting, Stepper. I’m learning a thing or two I didn’t know about watersheds from the on-line classes so far. The lessons are nice because they only take about five minutes at a time – not too hard to squeeze in that amount of time rather than trying to find time for longer but fewer lessons. Thanks for the tip about Word – that is one thing I already knew; I use the word count a lot. It’s the character count in the comment section here that threw me. Dave took the time to convert a word count to character count based on an average word length – I didn’t, and I bet you can guess why. Back-pedaling for a bit to reference my last topic here, it’s due to something I find even more vulgar than Lil Wayne’s lyrics, if that's possible. Math! Pfft!


chris davis
5/1/2011 1:07:25 PM

Hi Cindy! Spring is a good time for this blog. Unfortunately, where I am the spring rains didn't show up and my neighbors are in areas where the drought is labeled exceptional. It makes you aware of how valuable water is when water rights are major issues in property sales. Also, if you are using Word, the count or its display are usually a sub option of the Tools menu.


cindy murphy
4/20/2011 9:55:36 PM

Thank you, Mountain Woman, for your kind comments. I just believe, as I'd bet you and Mountain Man do, that we have a responsibility to do what we can, and never stop learning what else we can do.


mountain woman
4/20/2011 12:19:38 PM

Cindy,I loved your post. We could be sisters in so many of our ways. Mountain Man and I are deeply concerned about our impact on water because we have water all around us that leads to the Connecticut River. Our land is organic and the only fertilizer I use is one I make myself out of horse poop and my own secret ingredients and I don't use it nor do I plant anywhere near our stream bank. I never let horse poop gather any where it could become part of the run off. All our water comes from our mountain spring so it is imperative to be thoughtful about how we might pollute. And I conserve. I do the same things you do and I don't even run water when I brush my teeth, etc. I'm just very conscious of our usage. Mountain Man and I were green long before the word evolved because of our love for the land. I so admire your blog and all you do to in stewardship for future generations. Thanks for your post and the resources you presented.


nebraska dave
4/19/2011 8:57:00 PM

Cindy, my version of Word is from 2007 and has a counter in the bottom left corner of the document page. Perhaps a newer version doesn't have that feature. It always seems that good things are lost in the newer improved version. Actually, it's a word counter but the limit is some where around 250 give or take a few depending on just how many long words that are used. Thanks for all the good information. I'll have to digest and research the plants that you suggested. Have a great Wisconsin nursery day.


cindy murphy
4/19/2011 8:13:58 AM

(continuation in response to Dave....Dave, btw, how do you get a character count in Word? I can't figure out how to stay within the character limit here.) I’ve kept hostas for years as potted plants – in the winter I just keep them up against the garage with the pots covered in mulch to prevent the roots from freezing, bury them in the compost bin, or even overwinter them by planting them – pot and all - in the veggie garden. Hostas, ferns (Christmas fern is a tough-as-nails favorite that doesn’t require a lot of water), and Lady’s Mantle make great no-fuss-no-muss potted perennials. Carex (sedge) is a nice shade grassy plant; favorites are Pennsylvania sedge with its very slender, fine leaves, again requiring little water, or ‘Bowles Golden’ with leaves, as the name implies, that are golden-colored. Most perennials – especially those for shade – don’t flower all season. One that does (another favorite of mine) is corydalis lutea. Its looks are deceiving – very delicate, finely scalloped leaves, but it’s pretty much indestructible, requiring very little attention or water to put on its display of bright yellow flowers throughout summer. There are, of course, many more, but these are my potted stalwarts. Use your imagination and mix and match annuals and perennials, different colors and textures (remember dark colored flowers get lost in shade). I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with!


cindy murphy
4/19/2011 8:09:25 AM

Hi, Dave. Cool beans about expanding your watering system! Water is such a precious natural resource; there is not an infinite supply, and I believe we’ve got to conserve when we can. As for shade plants on your trellis…I know shade; most of my yard is shade. Yes, periwinkle does well in shade (just to be sure we’re talking about the same plant, though, I’m referring to the one with the botanical name vinca. There’s also a wild flower that has a periwinkle-colored flower that people refer to as “periwinkle” here; it prefers sun). Don’t forget those shady characters, the begonias! Since we’re talking water conservation here, begonias need very little water. Boston ferns look great in a hanging basket, but likes it moist and humid. Ivy also does well, and there are many annual varieties to choose from; I’d stay away from perennial English ivy, or other perennial vines for that matter – the stems get very woody over time, and your trellis needs to be a heavy-duty, permanent structure to support it, (it’d be very pretty, though). I wouldn’t discount perennials altogether – many of them make great potted plants, and you can either plant them out in your garden in the fall, or keep them year-to-year in pots for use on the trellis the following year. (to be continued...)


nebraska dave
4/18/2011 7:29:37 PM

Cindy, My main water tank for the garden watering system is 8 foot across. I just figured up the last one inch rain we had deposited 30 gallons in the tank. I have the barrel for catching rain from 1/4 of my house roof. A conservative 12' X 12' estimate for the roof area would net close to 90 gallons for a one inch rain. I will have the rain barrel integrated into the watering system before summers end with a second one close behind. I used about 10 gallons a day for my tomato bed last year and they are the heaviest water feeders. I haven't figured out the optimum water usage for the cucumbers yet but I suspect it's much less. The potatoes only get watered once a week until they bloom and then get cut off. Slowly but surely my water system is conserving and using minimum water usage for optimum growing. All watering is deposited at the base of the plants with drip hoses.


nebraska dave
4/18/2011 7:28:31 PM

The front trellis will have a new look this year. It will be containers all up the sides and across the top with shade plants. The only shade plants I know that work on my patio are dusty miller, impatiens, and coleus. Do you have any other suggestions. I had considered periwinkle but there again I'm not sure it would tolerate the shade. The poor man's patio is almost 100% shade by the time total tree leaf occurs. I'm kind of concentrating on the trellis this year and not much on the retaining wall as in years past. Of course the trellis will be automatically drip watered but not by gravity. It's just too high up to water that way. I'm celebrating Earth day by continuing to expand my watering system. Have a great Earth day.