Article courtesy of John Gallagher | Date (6,27,2015) | Detroit Free Press | Shared as educational material
Managing storm water remains a key concern in Detroit and many other cities.
Standing water after rain used to turn golf into a soggy affair at the Plum Brook Golf Club in Sterling Heights. But that was before an innovative new technology dried out the fairways — and possibly helped position Michigan as a leader in the nation’s emerging water-management industry.
In a world prone to both flooding and drought, entrepreneurs are racing to produce technologies to control, measure, purify and recycle the world’s water. Michigan, bordered by four of the Great Lakes and home to one of the nation’s largest cadres of engineers, is positioned to be a leader in developing those technologies.
At Plum Brook, Charlie Beaupre, who, with his family, owns and operates the golf course, said that entrepreneur Andrew Niemczyk of a firm called Parjana Distribution approached the club about its water problem.
“We were kind of the guinea pig for them,” Beaupre said. “Andrew said, ‘I’m not going to charge you, I just want to see if my system works.’ We said, ‘hey, knock yourself out.’ ”
The deceptively simple technology involves burying a series of vertical plastic tubes below the surface, where they act somewhat like artificial tree roots, encouraging the flow of water in the soil to various depths and increasing the amount of storm water that infiltrates deeper into the ground.
Instead of leaving storm water to collect on the surface, the Parjana technology helps water move into the soil at a faster rate, where it eventually seeps into nearby rivers, streams and ponds in the way nature intended.
At Plum Brook, Beaupre said, “We’ve absolutely noticed a monumental difference in the areas that used to collect water. He’s delivered on everything he said he was going to do and it’s helped immensely.”
Managing storm water remains a key concern in Detroit and many other cities. Rainwater and snowmelt runs off streets and parking lots into overburdened sewer systems, costing taxpayers millions of dollars to clean. Parjana’s technology allows nature to deal with storm water in a more natural — and much less expensive — way.
At Belle Isle in Detroit, another pilot project saw the Detroit-based Parjana install its so-called EGRP (energy-passive groundwater recharge product) technology on a 24-acre test site near the old police station. The project reduced the amount of standing water on the site, compared to the rest of the island where standing water remains a challenge.
Greg McPartlin, cofounder with Niemczyk of Parjana, said that water-management technology one day may be as emblematic for Michigan as cars. “We are creating an environment that when people around the world think about water they think about Michigan,” he said.
Parjana (the name derives from the initials of Niemczyk family members) is one of the many water technology companies featured in the recent report Michigan Blue Economy, authored by John Austin of the Michigan Economic Center at Prima Civitas and Alan Steinman of the Grand Valley State University Annis Water Resources Institute.
The report documents Michigan’s Blue Economy and its size and scope. Water and water innovation already create one in five Michigan jobs and nearly $60 billion annually in economic activity, the report said.
In addition, there are water research and education programs at Michigan’s 10 university water research centers, 190 water programs, and 18 community colleges making Michigan a leader in solving challenges related to water.
“Parjana is a great example of how Michigan companies and entrepreneurs can lead the way in creating and deploying new water technologies, to truly solve global water problems, creating new jobs in the process, and making Michigan the global freshwater innovation center,” Austin said.
Other Michigan firms and researchers are creating a variety of water technology products and services, he added. Among those: Whirlpool Corp. is developing hyper water-efficient appliances. Dow Corp. is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of water technology components for filtering and cleaning water and reducing the energy used and costs of pumping and using water in manufacturing and energy plants.