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The Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project (Rouge Project) demonstrated development and implementation of a systematic watershed approach to pollution management. This cost-effective, holistic approach was shared in order to provide solutions to other urban watersheds throughout the country on how to restore a polluted urban waterway. The Rouge Project was initiated in 1992 by the Department of the Environment, Wayne County, Michigan. The Rouge River Watershed located in Southeast Michigan is largely urbanized, spans approximately 466 square miles, is home to more than 1.5 million people in 48 communities and three counties, and is a tributary to the Detroit River. Multi-year federal grants from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and additional funding from local communities support this cooperative effort between federal, state and local agencies. These grants were managed by Wayne County.
The early focus of the Rouge Project was on the control of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in the watershed. Although control of pollution from CSOs was identified as a major priority, it was determined that CSO control alone would not provide sufficient improvements to meet water quality standards in the watershed. This is because nonpoint source pollutants ― such as storm water runoff, discharges from illicit connections, discharges from failed on-site septic systems, and other sources ― would continue to degrade the river. In addition, it was determined that wetlands, habitat restoration, lake restoration, erosion and flow variability all needed to be controlled before full restoration of the river would be achieved throughout the watershed. 
Using the watershed approach requires a number of tools such as a comprehensive sampling and monitoring program, various types of water quality and water quantity modeling, and a geographic information system. The Rouge Project aggressively invested in these tools and others in order to develop a holistic watershed management strategy. 
The Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project is an unqualified success, using any of several measures of achievement. Major progress has been made in the control of pollution being discharged to the Rouge River. For example, CSO pollutant loads to the river have been cut by 90 to 100 percent during most events. In previous years certain water quality standards were violated most of the time at many places in the watershed. Now, the majority of the waters in the Rouge River watershed meet many standards. Coupled with the water quality improvements, the ecosystem health continues to improve as well. This is demonstrated by several measures such as increased sightings of fish and wildlife along the river since 1999. Improvements in the water quality and removal of contaminated sediment in Newburgh Lake resulted in the lifting of the fish consumption advisory for some species of fish in the lake. This is the first time fish caught in the Rouge River system have been safe for consumption in decades. This extensive web site contains technical reports, maps, and other information about the details of the Rouge Project. 

Mission Statement

The mission of the Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project is todemonstrate effective solutions to water quality problems facing an urban watershed highly impacted by wet weather and develop potential solutions and implement projects which will lead to the restoration of water quality in the Rouge River. The project addresses both conventional and toxic pollutants to:

  • provide a safe and healthy recreational river resource for present and future generations;
  • re-establish a healthy and diverse ecosystem within the Rouge River Watershed;
  • protect downstream water resources such as the Detroit River and Lake Erie; and
  • help to ensure compliance with federal, state and local environmental laws which protect human health and the environment.

This was accomplished through the development, implementation and financial integration of technical, social and institutional frameworks leading to cost-efficient and innovative watershed-based solutions to wet weather problems. This watershed-based national demonstration project will provide other municipalities across the nation facing similar problems with guidance and potentially effective solutions.


Rouge River Restoration Summary - 1994-2014
2013 Rouge River Progress Report
2012 Rouge River Progress Report
2013 Rouge River Monitoring and Assessment Report
2012 Rouge River Monitoring and Assessment Report
Rouge 2009 Presentation - Preserving Our Future
Online Rouge Watershed Monitoring Database Query Tool (Web View)  Coming soon!

New Items

Updated Rouge Publications Clearinghouse Order Form - please click here to download the order form.


                                1-888-223-2363 24-Hour Environmental Hotline     For more information, click here.

Please address all comments and suggestions about the contents of this web page to Additional questions about the Rouge Project can also be directed to the Department of Public Services Environmental Hotline.

The Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project is funded, in part, by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Grants #XP995743-01, -02, -03, -04, -05, -06, -08, -09, and C-264000-01.

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