How Is Our Health Tied To The Health Of The Great Lakes?

“The health of our waters is fundamental to all life,” says water advocate Liz Kirkwood.

Gus Navarro/WDET

The Great Lakes are the heart of Michigan, pumping lifeblood through our inland lakes, rivers and streams. The lakes supply much of our drinking water and much of what we value about this state for business and recreation.

We’ve heard a lot in recent years about the challenges the lakes face – lake levels, bio-contamination, zebra mussels, pollution, a massive and aging oil pipeline.

So if the lakes are in trouble – how does that tie in to our overall health?

Many physicians and biologists subscribe to an idea called “One Health” that suggests the increasing importance of evaluating human health in connection with the health of our environment.

In Michigan, that’s a particularly interesting idea, as we call ourselves the Great Lakes state – a people defined by, and inextricably linked to, the massive bodies of water that surround us.

Carol Miller, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and the Director of Healthy Urban Waters at Wayne State University joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to talk about the ways our health is tied to the condition of the Great Lakes. 

According to Miller, the overall health of the Great Lakes is “threatened,” but the lakes are currently in good condition.

“The concern is more protection of the health of the Great Lakes,” she says.

Miller says “coming up with methods that can be used to, perhaps, forewarn about dangers coming in” to Michigan’s bodies of water is important because “caring for the lakes requires that prediction and safe-guarding against threats.” 

Liz Kirkwood, the director of For Love of Water (FLOW), a Great Lakes advocacy and public policy organization, also joins the program.

 “The health of our waters is fundamental to all life,” says Kirkwood. 

For Kirkwood, the fact that Michigan is connected to “20-percent of the world’s fresh surface water” is “extraordinary.” 

“It also imposes this incredible stewardship responsibility on all of the 40-million people who live” in the Great Lakes region. 

“It’s no surprise that the agencies that are responsible for protection of the environment and natural resources have a dual mandate that their duty is both to protect human health and the environment,” says Kirkwood. 

Click on the audio player above for the full conversation. 



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