Graham Sustainability Institute

Collaborative Assessment of Stormwater Runoff on Tribal Lands

Washed out road.

Project Team

Frank Marsik - U-M College of Engineering, Climate and Space Sciences Engineering
Maria Carmen Lemos - U-M School for Environment and Sustainability
Robin Clark - Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan

Additional Partners

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan

Project Summary

Increasing severe weather in the Great Lakes region has endangered tribal lands 

Over the past half-century, annual precipitation and the severity of storms has increased substantially in the Great Lakes region, resulting in periods of intense stormwater runoff and even flooding on tribal lands. In response to these changing conditions, members of the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan (ITCM) have sought to assess their communities' susceptibility and bolster their resilience to future increased rainfall and extreme events. 

Modeling options to control stormwater runoff

Using Graham funding, this research team worked with four ITCM-member Tribal Nations to perform a screening-level assessment of stormwater runoff for areas within Tribal communities that tribes had identified as areas of concern. While critical to devise strategies to mitigate excess water-flow, such estimates are usually time- and cost-prohibitive for many Tribal natural resources departments.

The researchers used the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Stormwater Calculator (SWC), which can account for the implementation of low-impact development (LID) controls (e.g., rain gardens, permeable pavement) to reduce runoff. 

Out of this assessment process, researchers produced formal reports for each Tribal partner, which include: 

  • Site-specific scenarios for stormwater runoff given implementation of LIDs and future climate conditions
  • A comparison of the cost-effectiveness and efficacy of various LID options 
  • Modeling which conveys how different climate scenarios could impact Tribes' most vulnerable sites 

Protecting critical infrastructure 

As a result of this collaboration, the participating ITCM-member Tribes will be able to progress toward developing management best practices to protect the critical infrastructure and valued aquatic resources in their communities. Further, they now have detailed quantitative information necessary to seek federal funding to implement such practices.

News & Resources

Graham Sustainability Institute awards thousands in grants, Michigan Daily, June 8, 2018

For more details, read the final project report (PDF)

This project received a $10,000 Catalyst Grant in 2018.