RainSmart: 1,000 Rain Gardens for the Rouge

The Rouge River, located in southeast Michigan’s metro-Detroit region, has come a long way since catching fire fifty years ago. Working since 1986 with the Rouge’s 48 communities and thousands of the Rouge’s 1.35 million residents, Friends of the Rouge (FOTR) has helped bring the Rouge back to life, returning an industrial river once again into a thriving river for people to enjoy. However, the Rouge still faces major problems with excessive stormwater runoff from the largely urbanized lands that drain to the river. Major storms in 2014 caused over $1 billion in flooding damage across the region, a problem expected only to worsen due to climate change.

In 2018, Friends of the Rouge launched the RainSmart campaign to promote green infrastructure across the region, putting community landscapes to work soaking up the rain. The campaign set the short-term goal of 1,000 rain gardens for the Rouge by 2025 (long-term: 13,000 rain gardens by 2035). Rain gardens provide one of the most cost-effective solutions available for stormwater problems, by turning ordinary lawns and landscapes into stormwater superheroes that soak up the rain where it falls. Rain gardens also provide other essential benefits, not least of which include: habitat for bees, butterflies, and birds; removal of carbon dioxide, a key climate gas, from the atmosphere; and beautiful green space for people to enjoy.

Friends of the Rouge works regularly with non-profits, churches, and low-income residents to design and install rain gardens across the Rouge River watershed and throughout the City of Detroit. Friends of the Rouge organizes rain garden installations through volunteer workshops, providing service-learning opportunities through which residents learn about rain gardens by building rain gardens under expert supervision. Your support would enable the design and installation of additional rain gardens towards the 1,000 rain garden goal, typically sized between 100 and 1,000 square feet, for a non-profit, church, or low-income resident.

* Project restores natural hydrologic conditions to facilitate improved capture and infiltration of surface water and groundwater recharge


Southeast Michigan

Start Up Date:


Project Benefits:

Community Engagement & Education

Environmental Flow Restoration & Protection

Green Infrastructure Investment

Water Quality Improvement

Wildlife & Habitat Protection

Project Type:

Restoration of Natural Hydrology *


Funding Needed

Volunteer Opportunities