Water Module Content

The Huron River is the lifeblood of Ann Arbor. It is a key natural feature for the campus community and provides 85% of our drinking water.  Threats from development and run-off diminish the quality of the river. Through thoughtful development planning, landscape management, and with watchful eyes, we can protect our river from degradation.

Ann Arbor has over 10 miles of the Huron River running through it, and the University of Michigan is the largest land owner within the city. U-M owns over 3,200 acres--approximately 850 of those acres are maintained as campus lawns, golf courses, and woodlands.

Our Progress

Our Guiding Principle: We will pursue land and water management, built environment (human-made surroundings), and product sourcing strategies toward improving the health of ecosystems and communities.

Our Goal: Protect the Huron River water quality by reducing runoff from impervious surfaces (defined below). Reduce the volume of land management chemicals (defined below) used on campus by 40%.

  • Impervious surfaces - artificial surfaces such as rooftops, sidewalks, roads, asphalt, and concrete where water cannot seep through to the ground below.
  • Land management chemicals - fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc.


Our Progress: In FY 2017 we applied 26,219 pounds of land management chemicals, more than meeting our goal of 27,600 pounds! We are using 1.33 billion gallons of water a year (43 gals/person/day).

Water Conservation

Dual Flush Toilet When using water, massive amounts of energy are required for treatment and transportation. The Ann Arbor Wastewater Treatment Plant is the largest consumer of energy in the city. More than 13% of total electrical energy in the United States goes to pump, treat and heat water supplies. Reducing water use will help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as protect the Huron River.

  • Irrigation - If you see sprinklers running on U-M property, it’s probably not going to rain today. The University uses Maxicom, a computerized system used to optimize campus irrigation systems by monitoring weather and adjusting accordingly. It can also detect and report problems such as breaks or leaks. This has reduced water use on campus by 22 million gallons a year.

  • Low-Flow Fixtures - Check out your building to see if you have any of the several water-saving features that have been installed throughout the University such as dual-flush toilets and low-flow faucet aerators. These are often easy and economical to install at home as well! Over 60% of faculty/staff and 30% of students currently use low-flow fixtures at home. Pictured here is a dual-flush toilet found around campus - for just liquid waste pull up to flush with less water.

  • Report leaks - Report leaks to Facilities so they can be fixed. Leaks may seem small, but they are responsible for as much as 13% of indoor water use.

As of Fall 2016, Planet Blue Ambassadors have collectively conserved over 125,268 gallons of water by just taking shorter showers. That's like filling up over 2,500 bathtubs with water. 

Ross Green RoofWater Quality

Take a walk in the rain--or at least with rain in mind. Currently, only around 10% of us report knowing a lot about how to take care of our residential property in an environmentally-friendly way. Here are some inspirational ways we protect water-quality at U-M, many of which can be used at home too:

  • Dana Building - Next time you are on the Diag, check out the natural landscaping, porous pavement, and rain garden on the east side of the building (not the Diag side).

  • Ross School of Business - has a green roof which helps prevent stormwater run-off (pictured here).

  • Diag & Ingalls Mall- Grounds Services conducted a pilot using organic fertilizers and compost tea instead of traditional chemical fertilizers in these iconic spaces and plan to expand this practice soon.

  • Golf Courses -The U-M Golf Course and Radrick Farms are dedicated to groundwater and surface water protection and both have obtained certifications applauding their environmentally-responsible practices. If they can maintain their lush greens in an environmentally-friendly way you can too.

  • Art & Architecture Building Wetland - This wetland manages runoff for over 90 acres of North Campus while providing amenities for wildlife and the campus community.

  • Crisler Arena - Next time you are at a U-M basketball game take a peek at the porous pavers at the entrance. These allow water to seep into the ground on site instead of rushing into a storm drain with pollutants like car oil.

  • Noble Plaza -at the U-M Depression Center helps create a healing environment with a rain garden full of native Michigan plants.

U-M's Department of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health (OSEH) has developed a comprehensive Storm Water Management Program Plan. They have also provided a list on their environmental protection webpage of ways you can help protect water quality by recognizing clogged storm drains, preventing spills, reporting leaky dumpsters, and cleaning equipment properly. If you see improper dumping or discharge on campus, call 734-647-1143.

If you see a clogged storm drain, report it or clean it up. If the storm drain remains clogged, it can cause flooding! Remember that storm drains lead directly to the Huron River.

Storm Drain Label