Have you ever been asked if you live in a watershed? Only to realize you aren’t sure, because you don’t really know what a watershed is.  This is not uncommon. The term watershed is not historically well-known; however, it is starting to make its way into our conversations. Why? Let’s start with defining what a watershed is.

A watershed, also referred to as a drainage basin, is the land area that delivers rain and snow/ice melt to a stream or lake.   Watersheds are divided by a ridge of high land which serves to separate two (or more) areas drained by different river systems.  So, do you live in a watershed?  Absolutely! Everyone who lives in Michigan, lives in a watershed.

So why is this important to know? No matter where you are at any given time, you are in a watershed, and your actions directly impact the health of that watershed. Additionally, the health of that watershed impacts you, everyone around you, and even the communities downstream. When rain and snow/ice melt travel across the land (watershed) and through storm drains, it is called stormwater or runoff. As this runoff travels it picks up trash, contaminants, sediments and dissolved substances along the way until it discharges into the nearest water body. Small streams join to form rivers and flow across sloping land, eventually flowing into a lake. These bodies of water impacted by runoff provide recreational opportunities, habitat for wildlife, and even drinking water for communities. By keeping our cars from leaking, litter off the streets, and properly disposing of animal and chemical wastes we are being good stewards by protecting not only the health of our watershed but also ourselves and everything downstream.

Rouge River Watershed

Wayne, Washtenaw and Oakland County residents live in the Rouge River Watershed (shown here). Click on the area you live in to see which sub-watershed you are in.

See all of Michigan's watersheds here - Map of Michigan's Watersheds

Watershed Resources

Map of Michigan's Watersheds

Wayne County Watershed Information

Oakland County Watershed Information

Michigan Lakes and Streams Association Watershed Information

SGS Water Science School

EPA Basic Inforamtion and Frequenty Asked Watershed Questions

EPA How's My Waterway?

Things You Can Do to Protect Water Quality in Your Watershed

During the Winter:
Pick up after your pet even in the winter to prevent the bacteria from washing into storm drains and straight to the Rouge River when the snow starts to melt. Use less salt by shoveling early and often to protect the Rouge River. If you do need salt, choose an environmentally-friendly alternative.
Winterize your rain barrel to prevent cracking due to cold weather by storing it in your garage, shed or basement and reattach your downspout. Attend a Friends of the Rouge Winter Stonefly Search close to your community to help gauge the health of the Rouge River.
This winter, plan a rain garden to include Michigan native plants which slows runoff and provides added filtration before entering the
Rouge River.

Use your local car wash to keep your car clean. When the buildup on your car melts, it sends the road salt, oil and other pollutants to the storm drain which end up in the Rouge River.

Recycle your holiday greenery, such as your tree, instead of throwing
it in the trash. It’s better for the environment.
Pour greasy or oily food waste into a jar and put it in the trash to prevent blockages in sewer pipes which can send sewage backward into homes or out manholes into streets and the Rouge River.
During the Spring:
Use your local car wash because washing your car at home sends the road salt, oil and other pollutants to the storm drain which end up in the Rouge River. Install a rain garden which traps and filte sediment and pollution and naturally cleans the water before it re hes the Rouge River.
Use a broom to sweep fertilizer and grass clippings back onto your yard so it doesn’t wash into the storm drain and the Rouge River. Pick up after your pet to prevent the bacteria from washing into drainage ditches and storm drains and straight to the Rouge River.
Don’t feed the geese because the concentration of droppings adds excess nutrients and harmful bacteria to the Rouge River. Plant Michigan native plants to slow runoff and provide added filtration before entering the Rouge River.
Install a rain barrel to capture rainwater for your garden or disconnect downspouts and direct them into gardens. Don’t pour chemicals down storm drains which lead to the Rouge River, instead recycle them at a household hazardous waste collection event.
During the Summer:  
Plant a variety of native species around detention ponds which will enhance water quality, minimize algae blooms and encourage wildlife habitat. Use slow release, phosphorus-free fertilizer and don’t fertilize right before it rains or along any body of water to help protect the Rouge River.
Pick up after your pet to prevent the bacteria from washing into drainage ditches and storm drains which go straight to the Rouge River. Dispose of your boat waste properly, keep bilges clean with absorbent sponges or pads, and inspect boats and trailers for plant debris and zebra mussels.
Waterfront property owners should plant trees, shrubs, taller grasses and wildflowers between the shoreline and upland areas to minimize the amount of pollutants entering the waterway. Keep storm drains clear of debris to prevent storm sewer blockages and minimize the amount of pollutants entering the Rouge River.
Maintain your septic system by having it inspected every 3 years by a licensed contractor and having your tank pumped every 3-5 years. Minimize use of your washing machine, dishwasher or shower during times of heavy rain because it stresses the sewer system.

During the Fall:

 
Plant a tree to provide a natural filter to the Rouge River and to reduce stormwater runoff, flooding and erosion. Pour or scrape greasy or oily food waste into a container or jar before putting in the trash to prevent blockages in sewer pipes which can send sewage backward into homes or out of manholes into streets and the Rouge River.
Do not put “disposable wipes” down a drain or toilet, they do not dissolve and will cause blockages in sewer pipes. Report illegal dumping to the Rouge River to your local municipality to prevent contamination to our groundwater supply.
When winterizing your pool, spa, or fountain allow the chlorine to dissipate for several days before draining it to a landscaped area not a storm drain which leads to the Rouge River. Use non-toxic cleaning alternatives such as white vinegar, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to reduce the amount of harmful chemicals entering the Rouge River.
Mulch your grass and leaves to use as a natural fertilizer which limits the excess nutrients from yard waste entering the Rouge River. Attend a workshop on native landscaping or septic system maintenance to learn how you can protect the Rouge River or volunteer at a bug hunt or Rouge Rescue with Friends of the Rouge in your community.
Questions? Contact ARC Staff: 734-272-0291 or Email