Project Clarity

Working to restore the water quality of Lake Macatawa and the Macatawa watershed

The goal of Project Clarity is to restore the water quality of Lake Macatawa and the Macatawa watershed. Located around Holland, Michigan, the watershed encompasses over 500 miles of rivers, streams, and ditches in approximately 175 square miles. Using a multi-phased approach, Project Clarity is focusing on land restoration, community education, and long term sustainability. Each phase builds on its predecessor, avoiding redundancy and providing flexibility in implementation.

Initiated in 2011, Project Clarity began with an 18-month study to identify the causes and sources of nutrients, sediments, and bacteria in Lake Macatawa and develop natural ways to fix the problems. The source of the problems include sediment naturally eroding from stream banks and rivers, run-off of fertilizers and topsoil from local farms, and the natural flow of sediment run-off due to heavy rains and melting snow.

Project Clarity is taking the lead on establishing rain gardens, retention ponds, inline stormwater sediment basins and boxes, and bioswales in urban and suburban areas. Many farms have agreed to plant cover crops, maintain grassed waterways and the buffer strips near them, and engage in no‑till farming practices. All of these projects help reduce and remove silt, sediment, and pollutants from reaching the Lake Macatawa watershed.

Since inception, Project Clarity has completed more than 130 projects, engaging over 70 businesses, farms, and partner organizations, resulting in nearly 100 acres of new wetland and over three miles of improved streams and waterways. Additionally, 51 farms have committed to best management practices on more than 18,000 acres. Combined these efforts remove more than 38,000 pounds of phosphorus from Lake Macatawa each year.

The next phase of Project Clarity will remotely monitor water pollution in the watershed using digital sondes and a cellular network. This effort will help the Project Clarity team and the public to monitor streams and water quality data remotely.

Project Clarity believes that people today and in generations to come will benefit from this project in the following ways: improved quality of life, increased property values throughout the community, additional flood storage, as well as an increase in tourism and recreation.