People who know Michigan know water is especially important here. Water is our way of life. Water is where we play. Water is our childhood summer memories. Water is swimming, fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking and camping at our lakes and rivers. Water is also important for business, playing the lead role in Michigan’s $22.8 billion tourism economy.

Reliable infrastructure is essential to keeping our water safe and clean. Unfortunately, all around our beautiful state, infrastructure is in desperate need of repair.

Many of our stormwater and wastewater sewer systems, drinking water systems and dams are 50-100 years old. In older Michigan cities some infrastructure systems date to the late 1800s.

When these systems fail or are overwhelmed because they were not designed to handle current capacities and populations, it can cause damage and delays, ruin vacations and, in the worst cases, endanger public health. The examples are all around us.

Dozens of Michigan beaches and stretches of rivers are closed to swimming and fishing for days and weeks each summer to protect public health. Many of these closings are the product of aging and antiquated wastewater and stormwater systems that fail or can’t handle capacity.

In 2016, 26 beaches closed due to stormwater, runoff or sanitary sewer overflow for a total of 53 days from June through August — Michigan’s prime summer beach season, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) 2016 Annual Beach Monitoring Report.