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Watershed Information


Did you know that you live in a watershed?

Van Buren Township is in the Rouge and the Huron River Watersheds.  A watershed is the area of land that drains water into a certain river system.  The Rouge River Watershed is located in Southeastern Michigan and includes over 400 square miles of land.  In fact, the Rouge River Watershed covers all or part of 48 communities and 3 counties.  Although the Rouge River does not run through Van Buren, we are connected to the Rouge by our storm drain system.  The majority of the northern half of Van Buren is in the Rouge River Watershed.  The rest of our township, including Belleville Lake, is in the Huron River Watershed.  Because we live in a watershed, our daily actions affect the quality of the river and its streams.  In fact, more than one third of the pollution in our water ways come from stormwater runoff.  When it rains, stormwater falls on our roofs, driveways, lawns, and other areas.  If it is not absorbed into the ground, it picks up pollutants such as excess fertilizers, oil, grease, and sediments and carries them over land, into stromdrains and eventually into the river.

What is the Lower One Subwatershed?

In order to manage the large area of the Rouge River watershed, local units of government decided to divide the watershed into subwatersheds.  One of these subwatersheds is the Lower One Subwatershed of which Van Buren Township is an active partner.  Van Buren is working with these communities to develop a subwatershed management plan to help protect and restore this community resource.

What is unique about the Lower One Subwatershed?

The Lower One Subwatershed has a special location with regard to the Rouge River.  Our part of the watershed is considered the “headwaters” of the Rouge River, or the place where the river starts to flow in smaller creeks and streams before they meet the large river.  The protection of our headwater streams is crucial to the quality of water downstream.  Over 50 percent of the total land area in the Lower One is still open space – agricultural land, wetlands, and woodlands.  Because of these natural features, the water quality in these areas remain the best in the whole watershed!  This means that there is a lot of opportunity to proactively protect water quality and our existing natural resources.  The protection of these resources is especially important because new development in our subwatershed is occuring rapidly.  If we do not plan carefully, increasing development could mean the degradation of our waterways.

How does our changing landscape affect the quality of the Rouge?

The good news is that the quality of the creeks and streams within the Lower One Subwatershed have historically been quite good compared to other downstream subwatersheds.  However, the past few decades have seen the impacts of increasing development and a rapidly changing landscape.  In fact, the number of households in this area will double in the next 25 years!  For our waterways, more houses, more streets, and more parking lots mean increased stormwater runoff and increased pollution.  While the Lower Rouge River is still in fairly good condition, there are significant water quality, water quantity, and fish and wildlife concerns in the Lower One Watershed that need to be addressed.

How do we plan for the future of our Rouge River?

1. Get involved in the Lower One Management Plan:  Local officials in the Lower One Subwatershed have been working together for several years to protect and restore the Rouge River.  Currently, our working group, is developing a subwatershed management plan that will serve as an action plan.  However, because we all impact the Rouge River, we all need to be involved in order to have a plan that will work.

Please download a copy of the draft plan and contact the Van Buren Township Environmental Coordinator if you have any comments or questions:
Draft of Rouge Watershed Plan

2. Be aware of your impact on the river: Small change in your daily activities can make a big difference – like reducing your lawn fertilizer or inspecting your septic system – that can have a great impact on increasing the health of the Rouge River. Also please stop by the Township Hall to visit our Rouge River display and pick up a copy of the Rouge River Repair Kit and our other information pieces.  These are useful guides that can help us understand how we can all make a positive difference in the water quality in Van Buren.

3. Volunteer to help the Rouge: Friends of the Rouge (FOTR) is a non-profit organization dedicated to citizen stewardship of the Rouge River.  Call FOTR at (313) 792-9900 to find out more about River Day, River Watch, the annual Frog and Toad survey, the Rouge Education Project, and other activities.  Together we can all protect and restore the Rouge River, its creeks and streams, and fish and wildlife to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Why should I get involved?

There are many positive benefits to protecting the water quality and natural features of our community in both the Rouge River and Huron River Watershed.  These Include:
·         Increased recreational opportunities, both passive and active.
·         Improved aesthetics
·         Potential rise in property values
·         Increase wildlife habitat
·         A safe place for you and your children and grandchildren to discover and explore.
Help us to continue to make Van Buren Township a premier community that we can all be proud of!

Rouge River Watershed Plan

Local officials in the Lower One Subwatershed have been working together for several years to protect and restore the Rouge River.  Our working group has recently developed a subwatershed management plan that will serve as an action plan to protect our natural resources in this region. However, because we all impact the Rouge River, we all need to be involved in order to have a plan that will work.

Please go to the following website to review a copy of the plan and contact the Van Buren Township Environmental Department if you have any comments or questions:
Lower 1 Watershed Plan:

MDEQ Voluntary General Stormwater Permit

To learn more click on: Michigan General Storm Water Permit

Watershed Maps

Southeast Michigan Watersheds
Rouge River Watershed
Rouge River Lower 1 Subwatershed
VBT Watershed Map Alliances

Alliance of Downriver Watersheds
Alliance of Rouge Communities


Center for Watershed Protection (
Friends of the Rouge (
Huron River Watershed Council (
Know your Watershed ( Your Watershed/)
Rouge River Watershed (
Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council (

Watershed Education

Storm drain markers:

In honor of River Day 2001 (June 2nd) volunteers put curb markers with the message “NO DUMPING – DRAINS TO LAKE” next to storm water catch basins on the streets in Haggerty Subdivision. The messagestencil2.jpg (323088 bytes)is a reminder to the residents that hazardous chemicals can end up in our local waterways if they are allowed to enter storm drains.  Hazardous wastes, like used motor oil, antifreeze, paint or household chemicals should not be dumped on the ground or into storm drain inlets. Pay attention to the amount of fertilizer, pesticides and water applied to your lawn. Lawn chemicals can be washed off your lawn and intoapplication2.jpg (149851 bytes) the storm sewers during periods of heavy rain. When these chemicals enter the lake, they can poison the water or use up the oxygen so fish and other aquatic animals suffocate and die!

If you would like to participate in a storm drain marker project in your neighborhood please contact the Township Environmental Department.

Illicit Discharge

An illicit discharge is the introduction of polluting materials into a pipe that drains to surface water or the spilling or dumping of polluting material that can impact surface water.  An illicit connection is when a sanitary plumbing fixture (sink, toilet, etc.) is connected to a storm sewer pipe.  If you notice either an illicit discharge or connection please call the Township Environmental Department.

For more information on Illicit Discharges follow this link:

Adopt a Stream

Griggs 1997.jpg (669729 bytes)

Did you know that we have high quality waterways that flow through our community?   When many of us think of water in the Township we think of Belleville Lake or the Huron River, but we also have some wonderful creeks and streams.  One such exceptional stream is commonly referred to as the Griggs Drain, although it did not always have such a utilitarian name.  It was once known as Woods Creek and according to a book of local history, Water Under the Bridge, in 1827 at a site near Woods Creek the first Township meeting was held.  Woods Creek is located in the Southern end of our Township and the creek’s watershed (the land area that drains into the creek) covers almost the entire bottom third of the Township!  This means that activities that take place on all of that land area directly affect the water quality of Woods Creek and the Huron River.   To help us monitor the health of Woods Creek and other important waterways throughout the Huron Watershed, the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) has organized an Adopt a Stream program with the help of many volunteers.

What is the Adopt a Stream Program?

In the spring and fall, volunteers venture into the local waterways in search of insect larvae to learn more about the stream conditions. These young insects play a role of canaries in the mine in that they react to poor environmental conditions before we do. Aquatic insects depend on healthy streams for their survival. Their sensitivity to changes in the chemistry, flow characteristics (such as velocity and depth), and bottom substrate makes them valuable measures of stream conditions. The volunteers and HRWC scientists measure different components of the insect community to learn more about potential problems and the overall ecological health of the site.

Griggs stonefly search.JPG (725541 bytes)How long has Woods Creek (Griggs Drain) been monitored?

Volunteers with the Adopt-A-Stream Program have monitored Woods Creek where it enters the Huron River in the Lower Huron Metropark since 1996. Results show that this creek supports a diverse animal population and is in acceptable ecological quality. Habitat assessments have identified some bank erosion, trash, and a lack of pool habitat as physical challenges to the animals living in this creek.

What are the results of the latest sampling survey?leptoph_adult.gif (35987 bytes)

lepto larva.gif (24611 bytes)In April of 2001, volunteers found two prong-gilled mayflies (family: Leptophlebiidae) living in Woods Creek. Because this type of mayfly is especially sensitive to organic pollution (fertilizers, animal waste etc.), its presence indicates this is stream is in good condition.  Of 56 study sites in the Huron River Watershed, Woods Creek ranks #18, meaning it is in better biological quality than 38 other study sites.

What about winter sampling?winter_stonefly.gif (30944 bytes)

In January, volunteers look for a specific group of insects called the winter stoneflies, which are expected to be living in creeks unless there has been a disturbance. The life cycle of a winter stonefly makes them relatively immune to metabolic stresses during the summer, and climatic conditions in the winter usually ensure adequate oxygen even in moderately polluted sites. For us, their absence is an indicator of toxic pollutants, the effects of which might be masked the rest of the year by low oxygen or other metabolic stresses.  Volunteers have found winter stoneflies in Woods Creek since beginning to monitor for them in 1997. In the past two winters, volunteers have found more groups of winter stoneflies.

Is the chemistry of the water measured?

One way that chemistry is measured is with conductivity. Conductivity is an indication of the concentration of dissolved ions (for example salt, metals, toxins) present in the water. It is measured with a conductivity meter, which measures how easily electricity can flow through the sample water. If the average conductivity measured at a site is 800 microSiemens (µS) or less, it is considered natural for stream water.

At some of our sites with high levels of development and impervious surfaces (roads, driveways, roofs), rainwater washes chemicals, such as fertilizers and pet wastes, from the developed landscape into the creek. Development can lead to a conductivity above 800 µS, which is considered excessive and may indicate the presence of toxic substances. (Realize that many toxins, although harmful, are not measured by conductivity.)  The average conductivity at Woods Creek is 759 uS, within what is considered natural for stream water.

How can I get involved in this program?

There are many ways that you can get involved in this rewarding program that requires only a small time commitment and provides the benefit of learning about and helping to monitor a significant resource right here in our backyard.  For more information on the Adopt-a-Stream schedule/calendar and how to participate in it go to  the Huron River Watershed Council’s website at

Who can I call for more information?

For more information or to pre-register for any of the above events, call the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) at (734) 769-5971 or email Visit them on the web at

What else can I do to help protect water quality in the Township?

There are many positive actions that you can take to help us improve upon and maintain our significant natural features such as our waterways.   These actions involve many of your day-to-day activities and include maintenance and design of your lawn and landscaping, proper disposal of your household hazardous waste, awareness of your storm drain system, maintenance of your septic tank, and others.  The Township has concise information available at Township Hall, including our series of 13 environmental factsheets for homeowners, which are available for you to use as a reference.   Be sure to tune into the Township Cable Channel (Channel 12) where we are showing 15 different programs related to environmental issues.  To check the programming schedule look on the Township website under the Cable Department or they can be reached at 699-6069.