Green infrastructure is the focus of a conference at Detroit’s Cobo Center this week.

The people behind it say it’s time to start thinking differently about how we handle storm water throughout the Great Lakes; but make sure we do it right.

You can think about green infrastructure as a different kind of plumbing for storm water.

Jon Allan directs the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes.

“It’s not just pipes-and-pumps-plumbing,” he says. “It’s using natural flow, it’s using storage, it’s getting infiltration, getting water into ground, and into the groundwater system.”

Allan says that for generations, we’ve built that infrastructure around one basic idea: capturing storm water in big pipes, and shooting it out of the sewage system as fast as we can.

But that can cause big problems, such as sewage overflows that pollute rivers and lakes, among other things.

There are already a number of green infrastructure projects throughout the Great Lakes.