Water Resources

Water Conservation

Water bottle refill stations and other low-flow infrastructure are helping to increase campus water efficiency and reduce our impacts on local water resources. You can help by using your own refillable water bottle rather than drinks that come in single-use plastic bottles.


Portions of the IUN campus lie within the Little Calumet River floodplain and increased flooding events are a predicted consequence of future climate change. IUN is working to combat flooding through green infrastructure improvements, increasing our campus water-use efficiency, and monitoring our stormwater outfalls.

Little Calumet River

Stormwater drains near IUN empty directly into the Little Calumet River. Keeping these drains clear of non-point source pollutants like garbage, debris, and contaminants like car oil or road salt can help protect local water quality.

Description of the video:

hi i'm natalie with the office of
sustainability at indiana university
northwest and today i'll be talking
about stormwater flooding and climate
change how to create a more resilient
the climate is changing and the effects
are evident here in northwest indiana
and across the midwest
seasons are shifting rainfall events are
more intense and heat events are more
extreme and more frequent
northwest indiana is among the most
ecologically diverse regions in the
world it supports dune ecosystems
globally rare ridge and swales multiple
types of wetlands tall grass prairies
forest ecosystems and more
yet the land use and interactions
between humans and nature are
our region supports a national park
multiple critical conservation areas
agriculture a major city and many
growing communities in a relatively
small area
individuals communities and institutions
like iu northwest are taking action to
become more sustainable and resilient in
the face of climate change
we are educating ourselves and each
other about the human impacts on the
natural environment the many ecosystem
services and benefits to humans that
come from healthy natural systems and
the actions we can take to become more
resilient under the challenges of
climate change
you may not think much about storm water
or where water goes once it falls on the
but it turns out that managing the
amount and quality of storm water that
we generate on the landscape and that
runs into local sewers or rivers and
streams is a critical part of
maintaining healthy waterways ensuring
sustainable water resources reducing the
risk of flooding and creating
communities that are resilient to
predicted climate change
in 2008 a major storm event occurred and
rainfall ranging from two to more than
11 inches fell on northwest indiana from
september to the 15th
many communities in northwest indiana
were flooded including parts of iun
iun was closed for two weeks and the
building that housed the iun theater and
art studios tamarack hall ultimately had
to be demolished
on this slide we can see where tamarack
hall was located on the iun campus and
when the building was demolished
today the green space where tamarack
hall once stood serves as a reminder of
that 2008 flood event as shown through
this historical marker
so why was iun so vulnerable to flooding
the 2008 flood was certainly an extreme
event but intense rainfall events are on
the rise in our region and more frequent
flooding is an expected consequence of
climate change
portions of the north side of campus lie
within the boundaries of the little
calumet river floodplain
a floodplain is a flat area of land that
is susceptible to flooding because of
its proximity to a river or stream
floodplains are a river river's natural
way of managing water when there is too
much for the channel to hold and
flooding is a natural process
across the us development has encroached
into floodplains
here in northwest indiana towns like
munster griffith and gary have homes and
businesses within the boundaries of the
in 1986 congress authorized the little
calumet river project in the water
resources development act to construct a
levee system along the banks of the
little calumet river and engineered to
keep with water within a straight
nature's tools for managing stormwater
through meandering rivers wetlands and
floodplains were severely compromised
during the 2008 event the amount of
stormwater running off the landscape
overwhelmed the municipal sewer systems
and flood waters exceeded the capacity
of the channels and the engineered levee
this extreme event reminds us of the
risks of building within floodplains but
also gives us a glimpse into the
possible impacts of projected climate
the purpose of this video is to better
understand the connections between
stormwater flooding and climate change
we will also consider some of the
actions that the iun campus local
communities and individuals can
implement to reduce their impact and
become more resilient and sustainable
with regard to water resources
so we'll start with the question where
do we get our fresh water from
all water is part of an ongoing process
called the hydrologic cycle whereby
water cycles between the oceans
atmosphere land and even underground
the earth's surface is over 70 percent
water but only two and a half percent of
all the water on earth is fresh water
here in the midwest we rarely worry
about running out of water because of
our temperate climate and our location
near the great lakes the largest body of
fresh water on the surface of the earth
it's only during extreme events like
floods or droughts that most people
start to witness impacts of shifts in
the hydrologic cycle
but it may surprise you to learn that
there is a lot of work to be done
starting today to improve the quality
and quantity of water in our region to
avoid flooding and to compact the
impacts of projected climate change
wherever you live you are in a watershed
a watershed is the land where water that
falls moves to a common destination as
surface runoff or shallow groundwater
a watershed is simply a geographic
boundary that marks the land where the
water that falls moves to a common
it is easiest to think about the water
as moving from the high points in a
landscape to the lowest point like a
local lake or stream
as precipitation hits the ground it can
infiltrate to become shallow groundwater
or run over the landscape as runoff
both groundwater and runoff eventually
feed into local rivers streams and lakes
within the watershed but the paths they
take are different
the activities we do where we live work
and recreate impact both the quality and
quantity of natural waterways
keeping our watersheds clean and their
natural ecosystems intact is essential
to protecting our fresh water sources
and the ecosystem services that they
here is a picture of the main watersheds
in the united states
you can see most of the land in indiana
lies in the mississippi river watershed
so water that falls over most of the
state contributes to rivers that
ultimately flow into the mississippi
river and down into the gulf of mexico
a large part of the tri-county area of
northwest indiana is part of the lake
michigan and great lakes watershed
northwest indiana straddles two major
watersheds the valparaiso moraine is a
high elevation geological landform that
was created by sediments deposited by
the laurentide ice sheet
this high area creates a continental
watershed divide between the great lakes
watershed and the upper mississippi
river watershed
water that falls north of the divide
ultimately flows to lake michigan in the
great lakes
water that falls on the southern side
flows to the kankakee river which
ultimately joins up with the upper
mississippi river and flows south to the
gulf of mexico
communities like gary chesterton
griffith and michigan city are part of
the larger lake michigan and great lakes
everything we do in these areas
influences the quantity and quality of
water that reaches lake michigan
communities to the south like lowell and
hebron are located in the kankakee river
basin and are part of the upper
mississippi river basin
land uses like agriculture that occurs
in these areas influences water quality
as far away as the gulf of mexico
meanwhile communities like crown point
or valparaiso sit right on the
continental watershed divide so they
have areas in both the lake michigan and
mississippi river watersheds
these major watersheds can be further
divided into sub-watersheds to better
understand how water moves locally and
to make municipal water management
it's kind of like dividing the u.s into
states and each state into counties
this is a map of the different
sub-watersheds in indiana
iun is located in the little calumet
sub-watershed which is part of the
larger lake michigan watershed
stormwater generated by the iun campus
enters the west branch of the little
calumet river and flows to lake michigan
want to know where water in your
community goes a great resource from the
epa is called how's my waterway
this tool can help you learn about the
condition of waterways in your local
watershed any issues it may have
drinking water information and more
so what's impacting our watersheds
let's start with urban development
urban development replaces natural
landscapes like forests prairies and
wetlands with hard surfaces that reduce
infiltration and increase runoff
during rain events more water is
delivered quickly to sewers rivers and
streams as storm water runoff
stormwater runoff alters the flow of
streams increases channel erosion
carries pollution and negatively affects
the quality of natural waters
increased storm water runoff leads to
local flooding as well
and in urban areas increased storm water
contributes to combined sewer overflows
that discharge sewage into natural
you may be wondering what is a combined
sewer overflow and why does it happen
well many large cities like gary chicago
and indianapolis were designed with
combined sewer systems
in dry weather the systems carry sewage
directly to the municipal water
treatment plant
but in wet weather water from roads and
downspouts is added to the pipes and can
overwhelm the system
the mix of storm water runoff and sewage
then flows through an overflow pipe and
discharges directly into local rivers
and streams yuck
cities like indianapolis send out cso
warnings reminding people to stay out of
the water for three days after major
in northwest indiana those combined
sewer overflow events lead to high
bacterial levels on local beaches often
causing beach closures
cities are working hard to shift to
municipal separate storm sewer systems
or ms4s so that sewage never mixes with
storm water or which reaches local
but shifting infrastructure is an
expensive and time-consuming process
treating water at the municipal
treatment plant is also expensive so we
shouldn't treat water that doesn't
really need it
water that contains sewage however
definitely needs to be treated but most
storm water does not
so focusing on reducing the amount of
storm water we create can be a critical
it's not just urbanization that we need
to consider
agriculture also replaces natural
landscapes of indiana and other areas
agriculture utilizes high volumes of
water to irrigate but then uses drainage
tiles to move the water off fields
quickly and into local rivers and
that water carries sediment and
chemicals like fertilizers and
pesticides which can be hazardous to
surrounding ecosystems water quality and
we've talked about water volume but
let's talk about water quality and
pollution can be classified into two
basic groups based on its origin as
either point source or non-point source
point source pollution can be traced
back to a specific location you can
literally point to the source
for example when equipment malfunctions
cause the arcelormittal steel mill to
release cyanide and ammonia into the
little calumet river in 2019 the
pollution was traced back to that
specific source
point source pollution is considered
easiest to monitor and track
it is regulated by national pollutant
discharge elimination system or npdes
permits under the clean water act of
1972 that works to restore and maintain
the chemical physical and biological
integrity of the nation's waters
the clean water act only allows point
source discharge if the person or
corporation has the has an npdes permit
npdes permits are enforced by ms4
coordinators in local municipalities and
govern government agencies like the
environmental protection agency and the
indiana department of environmental
nonpoint source pollution is basically
the opposite of point source pollution
because because it is much more
difficult to monitor trace and eliminate
non-point source pollution includes
runoff from roads and agricultural
fields that carries pollutants like road
salt oil and gas pesticides and
these pollutants have detrimental
effects on local waterways and
ecosystems that trickle up to wildlife
and humans
many groups are involved in monitoring
indiana's waterways including the
indiana department of natural resources
the indiana department of environmental
management local municipalities
environmental not-for-profits
universities and schools and even
citizen scientists like the hoosier
river watch volunteers
to manage and reduce pollution every
homeowner business and community needs
to focus on reducing the generation
of storm water
we should start by following the
philosophy of managed water where it
managing water on the landscape reducing
the amount of water that runs off into
sewers in local rivers and streams and
allowing water to slowly infiltrate into
the ground helps to filter pollutants
and recharge critical groundwater
green infrastructure can be a critical
tool in reducing non-point source
green infrastructure in northwest
green infrastructure strives to manage
water where it falls
while the term green infrastructure may
cause you to envision sophisticated
engineering solutions it actually
encompasses a variety of water
management practices that are designed
to mimic the benefits that natural
systems like wetlands forests and
prairies provide
it can be as simple as roadside or
streamside plantings absorbent gardens
increased tree cover and native
vegetation reduced impermeable surfaces
and other cost-effective measures that
capture filter and reduce storm water
or it really can mean engineered or
infrastructure design solutions such as
using permeable pavement or parking lots
designed to route water away from the
sewers to places where it can slowly
infiltrate using curb cuts and biosoils
that may sound expensive but green
infrastructure is also important from an
economic perspective perspective
it saves cities money they would need to
spend on treating stormwater in addition
to treating sewage wastewater
the goal of land conservation is to
protect natural areas that are close to
or within developed areas like cities
conserving these natural areas will both
protect the ecosystems and their natural
functions as well as providing scenic
areas for the recreational enjoyment of
city residents
one great example of land conservation
is spencer's prairie at iun
spencer's prairie also known as the
little calumet river prairie and
wetlands is tended to by spencer
cortwright a biology professor at iun
and his students
bioswales are strips of native plants or
mulch that are often found in parking
lots and along sidewalks and curbs
similar to rain gardens these strips of
native vegetation slow and absorb storm
water runoff decreasing flooding and
storm water runoff pollution
you can see biosoils in parking lots and
along curbsides in northwest indiana
permeable pavements also offer a method
for absorbing storm water
this cost-effective option for
decreasing stormwater runoff can include
the use of pervious concrete porous
asphalt or interlocking pavers
the stormwater runoff that flows over
these permeable pavements infiltrates
the pavement and is either stored or
carried to a water treatment plant
the parking lot at the valparaiso
library uses permeable pavement to
mitigate flooding
collecting rainwater is a great way to
reduce stormwater runoff pollution
rainwater harvesting systems are used to
gather rainwater instead of allowing it
to flow over the ground and into sewer
systems as stormwater runoff
rerouting downspouts to rains barrels
planter boxes rain gardens or permeable
areas can reduce stormwater runoff and
the amount of water in sewer systems and
treatment plants
unfortunately many large buildings
including those at iun have internal
drainage drainage systems that ties
directly to sewer systems instead of
however there are examples of rainwater
harvesting techniques in gary indiana
the city of gary has many wonderful
examples of green infrastructure but one
of our favorites is their project with
the u.s geological survey to install a
rain garden in the main parking lot of
city hall
the building had internal drainage so
rain water that fell on the roof drained
directly into the municipal sewer and
required treatment just like our
buildings at iun do
the project rerouted storm water from
the roof and off the parking lot into a
rain garden where a peripherated pipe
allows water to be stored and drained
more slowly into sands and gravels
and natural native vegetation enhances
and also helps filter sediment and
on this slide you can see gary's city
hall parking lot before and after its
green infrastructure development
there is much more green space within
the parking lot after construction which
will help reduce stormwater runoff
so what can we do
managing stormwater is going to be even
more important as we face the impacts of
climate change
climate change has altered the
hydrologic cycle of our planet
these changes have been researched since
shifting weather trends became prominent
in the 20th century
daytime and nighttime temperatures are
increasing and the frequency of intense
precipitation events has increased
globally since the 20th century
certain areas such as the western u.s
have experienced more intense droughts
recently than in the past while other
areas are receiving more rainfall than
rainfall has become much more common
than snowfall and sea levels are rising
due to the thermal expansion of warmer
water and the melting of ice sheets and
glaciers around the globe
these trends are getting worse each day
but how does climate change affect us
locally in northwest indiana
both the seasonal timing and frequency
of intense rainfall events have changed
rainfall events with two inches or more
of rain are becoming more frequent
leading to increased stormwater runoff
flooding and more frequent combined
sewer overflow events or csos
flooding is projected to increase
furthering concerns about stormwater and
water pollution
you can scale the green infrastructure
methods to your own home to help prevent
flooding reduce storm water
and protect water resources
you can focus on collecting and using
rainwater as a way of both decreasing
stormwater runoff and decreasing your
overall water usage
you can collect rainwater in large rain
barrels as shown in the images here
the rainwater you collect can be used
for activities such as watering your
lawn garden or indoor plants and even
washing your car
the most important thing is to limit the
amount of water you're discharging into
local sewers and streams
speaking of plants if you have a garden
you can decrease stormwater runoff
pollution by not fertilizing or using
fertilizer with zero phosphorus in it
phosphorus is one nutrient that causes
algae blooms so it is best to avoid
using phosphorus based fertilizers
you can also focus on using native
perennial plants with deep root systems
in your landscaping you can even create
your own rain garden or bioswale to
protect your home from flooding
it is also important to sweep your lawn
clippings away from roads and sidewalks
and back onto your yard after tending to
your lawn
lawn clippings contribute to stormwater
runoff pollution too
another simple and important way you can
keep our watersheds clean is by
disposing of waste properly
if you have a toxic waste like motor oil
you should contain it safely and
research how your municipality disposes
of toxic substances
and when your car leaks oil or you spill
a chemical substance on the ground clean
it up to keep it from being swept away
by storm water runoff
on a similar note
wait at least one week after
chlorination before emptying your pool
so the chlorine isn't added to
stormwater runoff
lastly and most importantly become a
voice that advocates for the
implementation of best management
practices in your community and in your
encourage implementation of ordinances
that include green infrastructure and
land conservation
so what opportunities exist to reduce
and manage stormwater at iun
one area of focus or low hanging fruit
may be our campus parking lots
at iun our parking lots look like vast
oceans of pavement in concrete
if our parking lots flood the storm
water runoff collects pollutants from
the pavement that has no place to drain
naturally other than through man-made
drain pipes
by practicing the ideals of green
infrastructure we could add patches of
native plants and trees install curb
cuts and bioswales or even explore the
use of permeable pavers
while these steps might not entirely
solve our flooding issue because of our
location in a flood plain they could
definitely help reduce the amount of
storm water going to city sewers and
mitigate the effects of storms
on october 25th 2021 the iun campus
closed because of an intense rain event
while this rain event was not nearly as
severe as the one that caused the 2008
floods the rapid downpour caused
localized flooding and overwhelmed the
gary city sewers
but iun and the gary community have
learned to be prepared for rain related
the iun campus did not flood but the
chancellor of iun opted to proactively
close campus for two reasons
first with excessive water use at iun we
could have caused a cso or combined
sewer overflow in gary
second the city of gary's infrastructure
was at capacity for water storage and we
did not want to risk flooding our
buildings by having water backups
the alert shown on this slide makes it
clear that climate change is already
impacting our region but we are becoming
more aware and more resilient to its
beyond informed decision-making and
using an alert system for
weather-related campus closures what
else are we doing at iun to mitigate the
effects of climate change
our first big step in mitigating
flooding on the iun campus was planting
trees and specifically water loving
iun has planted over 100 trees on campus
since 2019.
there was one low-lying area in the
green space that was prone to flooding
the student conservation association
took advantage of this empty green space
and planted the highly absorbent trees
river birch swamp white oak yellow
buckeye eastern red bud bald cypress and
black gum
as you can see in the images here these
young trees are already at work
absorbing storm water on our campus
with more projects like this we can make
iun a climate change resilient campus
for more tips on how to decrease
stormwater runoff pollution you can do a
quick google search and find a great
amount of information
and for more informational videos like
this one or to watch an interview with a
local ms4 coordinator please visit the
iun office of sustainability website

Description of the video:

i am jennifer godzilla and i am the ms4
coordinator for the town of chesterton
i received the bachelor of arts degree
in geology from iun
after my degree i was immediately hired
by a consulting firm out of chicago and
i worked at a major
oil refinery for a number of years
after that i went and worked for a
grassroots not-for-profit organization
from there i went and worked for a
regional planning
also known as a metropolitan planning
i worked there for a number of years and
then i went back to a not-for-profit and
worked under a grant
and from there i was hired by the town
of chesterton to do the ms4 coordinator
position i've been there for 15 years
the main responsibilities of an ms4
coordinator are to meet the requirements
that the state mandates
under what's called the national
pollutant discharge elimination system
under the ms4 program there are six
minimum control measures that each
community must meet and they address
public education and participation
construction oversight and enforcement
meaning that we are responsible for
making sure that what's installed during
construction is maintained properly and
the water quality goals that it was
designed for there's also illicit
discharge detection where we are
responsible for determining if
somebody's illegally dumping or has an
illicit discharge of some sort and then
the last component is our own good
housekeeping and pollution prevention
where the municipality or the ms4 is
responsible for making sure that they
are in compliance with stormwater
quality requirements
ms4 coordinators are not responsible to
oversee sanitary sewers
and the function of a wastewater
treatment plant so we do nothing with
everything is focused on storm water and
storm water quality some of the ms4s are
responsible for quantity flooding issues
drainage complications um and some are
not some focus strictly on stormwater
quality and the other thing that we are
not responsible for is the monitoring of
personal water wells for consumable
water and we do not oversee septic
systems either
there are many ways in which humans can
negatively impact a watershed
anything that they do on the land that
adds pollution to the ground
and sometimes the air can impact water
quality from not picking up your dog
poop to using too much fertilizer and
landscape chemicals on your lawns
to not fixing your leaks in your
vehicles or your lawnmower for that
matter can all have a negative impact on
a watershed
people do anything on the land they
should think about what the consequences
of what they do on the land will have on
water quality
one of the
key tenets of ms4 coordinators
education is to say that only storm
water should go down a drain so anything
that storm water touches from the dog
poop to the fertilizer to the chemicals
to the oils and greases on the ground
that adds pollution to the storm water
so people can
fix leaks
in their vehicles they can
not over fertilize they can pick up
their dog poop but they also need to
think about holistically
the entire system of the watershed
and think about the way that they change
the land as well whenever you take a
natural area and modify it to
install buildings and roads you're
creating a hard surface which doesn't
allow for as much infiltration of storm
water to go into the ground and it
causes greater runoff volumes
and more
probability that the storm water will
get polluted from everything that is on
the ground
when i was in high school and learning
how to drive i cannot recall
coming across roads that were closed due
to flooding
fast forward to today we're seeing that
more and more
in fact in 2008 chesterton received
eight inches of rain in a 48-hour time
period and we had over 13 roads
in town that were closed for a day or
more because of flooding
in europe this year over 200 people died
because of the massive amount of rain
that fell in a very brief period of time
and the incredible flooding that
occurred there
there are things that communities do
following major rain events