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Drawing together the data on Michigan groundwater

Today’s MI Environment story by Jim Milne, Water Use Assessment Unit supervisor, is from the State of the Great Lakes report.

Low-flow groundwater is sampled to test for the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). A new Groundwater Data Management System will collect environmental data for easier sharing and analysis.

Low-flow groundwater is sampled to test for the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). A new Groundwater Data Management System will collect environmental data for easier sharing and analysis.


When it comes to understanding Michigan waters, gathering data is only half the battle. As reported in last year’s Michigan State of the Great Lakes Report, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has quality groundwater data in abundance but had yet to optimize access for those who need it, inside and outside of state government.

EGLE environmental data exists in both hard copy and electronic formats housed in multiple databases, and in hard copy files in multiple divisions requiring extra efforts to communicate among divisions or even between programs within a division.

That will change with the creation of the Groundwater Data Management System, one of the recommendations from a Lean Process Improvement project that identified the need for common storage, analysis, searchability, and sharing of environmental data across EGLE divisions. This central data warehouse will house all of EGLE’s environmental data, accept new data from EGLE staff and others, be queried by internal and external customers, and communicate with other external databases, such as the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Ground Water Monitoring Network and the Michigan Hydrologic Framework. It will also be linked to Geographic Information System (GIS) environments to help visualize the data.

The data management system will be populated in phases, first with groundwater data and later with data for other media such as soils, surface water, and soil vapor.

The state’s competitive Information Technology Investment Fund, overseen by an investment board that ranks and recommends projects for funding, awarded the new system $7.1 million in Fiscal Year 2024 to prepare for launch using existing data, with direct entry of new data to follow. EGLE expects the database to go live in early spring 2025.

Project partners include EGLE’s Drinking Water and Environmental Health Division; Information Management Division; Materials Management Division; Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division; Remediation and Redevelopment Division; Water Resources Division; and the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget.

EGLE staff, other governmental agencies, regulated entities, consultants, and researchers will submit data such as well construction logs, soil boring logs, location and elevation data, water quality samples, aquifer properties, geologic unit descriptions, and more. Links will allow data transfer to other sources within Michigan and other governmental agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and USGS.

During permit application reviews, the system will enable EGLE staff to identify projects requiring specialized technical reviews such as hydrogeological studies and groundwater models.

Easier access to standardized data is expected to enable more-informed decision making, better data quality, and greater transparency and confidence in EGLE data and decisions.

The result will be improved understanding of groundwater science in Michigan and the region, more transparency in water use decisions, and increased awareness of the importance of data and the value of good stewardship.

Jim Milne is the Water Use Assessment Unit supervisor in EGLE’s Water Resources Division. He manages large-quantity surface and groundwater withdrawals and uses many types of environmental data, including stream flow measurements, groundwater elevations, well logs, and geologic maps. Jim enjoys spending time in Michigan rock collecting, kayaking, and fishing.