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Protecting the Rouge River in your Yard

Here are a few simple steps you can take to protect Rouge River and reduce stormwater pollution.


Disconnect Downspouts

Reduce the amount of rain water that flows to the sewer system.

You will need to
  • Cut the downspout
  • Plug or cap the sewer pipe
  • Add an elbow piece and gutter extension to direct the flow into a rain garden, rain barrel or vegetated area 

Harvest Rain Water

Save money by watering your lawn, gardens and houseplants with rain water. Save the river from receiving too much rain water during wet weather. More information

To install a rain barrel
  •   Determine a location for your rain barrel 
  •   Place the barrel on cinder blocks or another elevated surface that is strong enough to support the barrel full of water
  •  Cut the downspout
  •  Place an elbow piece on the downspout and/or an extension to direct the water to flow into the barrel

Install a Rain Garden

These shallow dish shaped gardens are designed to retain rain water for up to 48 hours. Much of the rain water is taken in by the plants, transpired back to the atmosphere or infiltrates deep into the ground. Rain gardens provide habitat for birds, butterflies and other important pollinators.
More Information

Create Native Wildflower Gardens

Replacing lawns with native gardens helps to improve water quality and wildlife habitat. The deep roots of many native plants provide a way for rain water to soak deep into the ground. The plants provide food (seed, pollen, nectar, leaves, etc) and shelter for birds, butterflies and other important pollinators. 

Reduce Imperviousness

Pervious pavers or pervious cement are great alternatives to traditional cement and asphalt for drives and walkways. Consider using these materials when replacing your drive, patio or sidewalk. These products allow rain water to permeate through the material rather than run off the landscape and into the river.


Vegetate Streambanks
A cost effective method to reduce streambank erosion and save riverfront property is to plant deep-rooted native wildflowers and grasses. The fibrous root systems create a living mesh that will help hold the soil in place. Native trees and shrubs provide shade in warm months, which is important to keep water temperature from rising and dissolved oxygen levels from falling too low to support life in the stream.

Stabilizing the Toe (Bottom of the Streambank)

Coir logs or large woody debris can be staked in to reduce localized erosion at the toe of the bank. This may be necessary to allow native vegetation to become established in erosion prone areas.  Erosion control blankets may also be necessary to protect plantings from washing away in high water.  A permit from MDEQ is required before this work can be completed.   
More information

Managing Woody Debris
In the recent past, logjams were presumed to be a significant problem in urban rivers, such as the Rouge River, and were completely removed from stream channels. New studies have now shown that properly managed logjams help reduce erosion, provide habitat for fish and wildlife, and are an important part of a river system's natural processes.


Limit Chemical Use

Many of the herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers used by gardeners today are harmful to the environment and should never be used near waterways. Excess nutrients from lawn fertilizers harm rivers and lakes. Opt for healthier alternatives for you and your family. 
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Pick up Pet Waste
Pick up pet waste before rainy weather or snow melt to prevent bacteria from entering the river through the storm sewer.  Many communities in the Rouge watershed have separate storm sewers that collect rain water from streets and parking lots and discharge directly to the Rouge River.  The water isn't treated and rain water picks up lots of pollutants from lawns, parking lots, roads and highways.  


Compost Yard Waste

Compost provides nutrients and improves garden soil. Composting is easy and saves waste from being trucked to a landfill or a composting facility. Compost acts like a sponge and soaks up lots of rainwater.  

How to do it
  • Create a compost pile or purchase a commercial composter
  • Add soil, grass clippings, leaves, garden waste, and some food waste (no meats, oils, dairy)
  • Visit the SOCWA Lawn & Garden website for more composting information (www.socwa.org) Composting flyer

Mulch Garden Beds

Mulch helps to retain moisture in the garden and helps to reduce weeds. Mulch also keeps gardens looking fresh and cared for.