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Effort to improve area water quality is changing campus landscape

by Jeanne Baron

Dec. 7, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of WMU stormwater management area.
Detention basins collect stormwater and filter it slowly through rocks and sand before releasing it back into ground reserves.
KALAMAZOO--Walking around Western Michigan University's campus these days is like going on an environmental field trip.

Curious about the piles of stones and plantings of tall grasses that keep turning up? Just look for a sign.

WMU's most prominent stormwater management areas are now featured on six strategically placed interpretive signs designed for the Facilities Management department by the Office of University Relations.

The signs show the locations of rock-filled detention basins, vegetative strips, rain gardens and other examples of best management systems for handling stormwater before it leaves WMU property and enters surrounding watersheds. They also explain how the identified treatment systems work.

"Many of these treatment areas are underground and therefore go unnoticed," says Cari Delong, WMU Facilities Management natural areas manager and coordinator of campus stormwater initiatives. "The University felt the addition of signage would be a great way to educate the community while also advertising WMU's commitment to sustainability."

The new signs can be found on the main campus near the Chemistry Building, Goldsworth Valley Pond and Miller Auditorium as well as alongside Western Avenue across from the Gilmore Theatre Complex. The remaining two signs have been installed on the Parkview Campus by the Business Technology and Research Park Pond and the main entrance to the Engineering and Applied Sciences Building.

One of the University's most noticeable stormwater management systems is the large detention basin near the Chemistry Building. The basin collects stormwater and filters it slowly through rocks and sand, a process that naturally filters out pollutants and reduces flooding and erosion. The goal is to filter the water and slowly release it back into ground reserves.

WMU has been implementing such treatment systems since 1998 to better manage stormwater on campus.

"In the past few years, we've participated in four grants totaling $1,234,721 to support our efforts in stormwater neutrality and be a model for other universities," notes Jan Van Der Kley, vice president for business and finance.

For more information, contact Cari Delong at or (269) 387-8568.