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Things You Can Do to Protect Water Quality in Your Watershed


You can do many things that can protect water quality! When it rains or the snow and ice melts, the water (called stormwater) drains off streets, driveways, rooftops and lawns into lakes and rivers without treatment. As it travels across the landscape, it picks up various pollutants like bacteria, oils, nutrients, fertilizers and sediment. Impervious surfaces, such as pavement, speed up the flow of stormwater runoff from the landscape and prevent water from soaking into the ground where it can be naturally cleansed by microorganisms that live in the soil. Many pollutants also reach our waterways from soil erosion because many chemicals readily attach themselves to soil particles. Contaminated runoff, known as non-point source pollution, comes from many different sources and is difficult to trace back to one source on the landscape. Contaminated runoff flows without treatment into the nearest stormwater drainage system. This may consist of simple drainage ditches or infrastructure such as enclosed pipes, outfalls, catch basins and detention ponds. If you live on a river, lake or stream, this runoff travels into the water much more quickly.

Below are some things you can do at home, in your yard, with your vehicles, in your community and at your business to reduce the amount of pollution being picked up by stormwater and going into the Rouge River.

Watch the ARC's Free Webinar: Stewards of the Rouge - How you can Protect Water Quality!

Please take our survey if you watch the webinar so we can improve future webinars. Download the PDF of the slides from the Stewards of the Rouge Webinar. If you would like information mailed to you about how you can protect water quality, please email your address to us.


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.
Winterize your rain barrel to prevent cracking due to cold weather by storing it in your garage, shed or basement and reattach your downspout.
This winter, plan a rain garden to include Michigan native plants which slows runoff and provides added filtration before entering the Rouge River.
Recycle your holiday greenery, such as your tree instead of throwing it in the trash. It’s better for the environment.


Use less salt by shoveling early and often to protect the Rouge River. If you do need salt, choose an environmentally-friendly alternative. Check out our brine recipe.
Attend a Friends of the Rouge Winter Stonefly Search close to your community to help gauge the health of 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.
Pour greasy or oily food waste (FOG - fats, oil & grease) 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.


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.
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.
Don’t feed the geese because the concentration of droppings adds excess nutrients and harmful bacteria to 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.Install a rain barrel to capture rainwater for your garden or disconnect downspouts and direct them into gardens.
Pick up after your pet to prevent the bacteria from washing into drainage ditches and storm drains and straight to the Rouge River. Plant Michigan native plants to slow runoff and provide added filtration before entering the Rouge River. Don’t pour chemicals down storm drains which lead to the Rouge River, instead recycle them at a household hazardous waste collection event. HHW Info: Wayne Co. / Oakland Co. / Washtenaw Co. / Macomb Co. / St. Clair Co.

Placeholder image THINGS TO DO IN THE SUMMER

Plant a variety of native species around detention ponds which will enhance water quality, minimize algae blooms and encourage wildlife habitat. Pick up after your pet to prevent the bacteria from washing into drainage ditches and storm drains which go straight to the Rouge River. 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.


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.Maintain your septic system by having it inspected every 3 years by a licensed contractor and having your tank pumped every 3-5 years. 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 so you don't contribute to the spread of invasive species. Keep storm drains clear of debris to prevent storm sewer blockages and minimize the amount of pollutants entering the Rouge River. Minimize use of your washing machine, dishwasher or shower during times of heavy rain because it stresses the sewer system.

Placeholder image THINGS TO DO IN THE FALL

Plant a tree to provide a natural filter to the Rouge River and to reduce stormwater runoff, flooding and erosion. Do not put “disposable wipes” down a drain or toilet, they do not dissolve and will cause blockages in sewer pipes. 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. Mulch your grass and leaves to use as a natural fertilizer which limits the excess nutrients from yard waste entering the Rouge River.


Report illegal dumping to the Rouge River to your local municipality to prevent contamination to our groundwater supply. Call: Wayne Co - 888-223-2363, Oakland Co - 248-858-0931, Washtenaw Co - 734-222-3800, Macomb Co - 877-679-4337, St. Clair Co - 277-504-SWIM. 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. 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.


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Phone | 734-768-2180

46036 Michigan Ave., Suite 126 | Canton, Michigan 48188