Skip to main content

Land Use Planning to Protect Water Quality

The protection of high quality waters is a priority for Michigan’s Nonpoint Source program. Several resources are available to help stakeholders protect water quality with local ordinances and other land use planning tools.


Protecting Michigan’s Inland Lakes: A Guide for Local Governments: This guidebook provides useful background information such as understanding the benefits of inland lakes to communities, regulations that govern their use, and opportunities for protecting them at the local level. Protecting inland lakes at the local level does not always require elaborate or expensive approaches. There are both simple and complex planning and zoning tools that can be tailored to meet both the lake and a community’s needs.

Protecting Michigan’s Inland Lakes: A Toolkit for Local Governments Part I: This document focuses on developing specific goals and connecting them to specific local options that can help achieve those goals. The tools contained in this book will help your municipality reach a variety of goals related to the inland lakes in your community. Case studies are presented to illustrate how local communities achieved their goals. Examples presented in this book include improving conditions for native fish, birds, frogs, insects that make up a healthy aquatic ecosystem; reducing pollutants such as E. coli, excess nutrients or sediment; maintaining the natural or rural character of the community; and improving recreational opportunities such as swimming, boating, or fishing.

Rural Water Quality Protection: A Planning & Zoning Guidebook for Local Officials: This Guidebook describes how land development and other activities on the land impact water quality; provides an overview of the many entities engaged in water quality protection (e.g., local, state, and federal government; individual property owners; and nonprofit organizations); provides educational materials on the best management practices that lower the impact of land use activities on our water bodies; and provides sample language for community Master Plans and Zoning Ordinances that helps ensure that future development has minimal impact on water quality.


Protecting Michigan’s Inland Lakes: A Toolkit for Local Governments Part II: Part II of this toolkit includes examples of ordinances from different communities, support materials to help local municipalities implement changes, and agency and organization contact information.

Wetland Protection Ordinances: A local unit of govern can regulate wetlands by ordinance provided certain criteria are met. Those criteria as well as frequently asked questions and examples of local wetland ordinances are provided at this link.


The Planning & Zoning Center at Michigan State University is a multi-disciplinary team of professionals devoted to research, education and consultation on best practices for community planning and development control. It works both independently and in cooperation with many other groups both on and off campus to build an economically, environmentally, and culturally sustainable Michigan.

The Michigan State University Extension’s Citizen Planner Program offers land use education and training to locally appointed and elected planning officials throughout Michigan. The Citizen Planner Program is a non-credit course series leading to a certificate of completion awarded by Michigan State University Extension. Advanced training to earn and maintain the Master Citizen Planner credential is also available. The Citizen Planner Program is offered in a classroom setting as well as a convenient web-based offering called Citizen Planner Online.

The Michigan Association of Planning is a 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to promoting sound community planning that benefits the residents of Michigan. The Michigan Association of Planning created a resource for Master Planning for Resiliency and Sustainability and offers many training opportunities for local officials.

The Low Impact Development Center is a non-profit national research organization that focuses on sustainable storm water management solutions for urban and developing areas. The Low Impact Development Center works with numerous research organizations, private entities, and other non profit organizations to conduct research, provide concept designs, implement pilot projects, prepare manuals of practice, and conduct training.

The Center for Watershed Protection, Inc. is a national non-profit organization dedicated to fostering responsible land and water management through applied research, direct assistance to communities, training, and access to technical assistance.