Green Stormwater Infrastructure Projects


What is DWSD's Green Stormwater Infrastructure Plan?

On March 1, 2013, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issued the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) the NPDES permit (Permit No. MI0022802) that requires DWSD to develop and implement a Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Plan for 17 specific outfalls along the Rouge River (known as the Upper Rouge Tributary). DWSD submitted an updated version of this Green Stormwater Infrastructure Plan to the MDEQ on August 1, 2014. The plan is DWSD’s road map for implementing green stormwater infrastructure in the future.

The permit required DWSD to invest $15 million in Green Stormwater Infrastructure between 2013-2017 to reduce 2.8 million gallons (MG) of stormwater flow (during the two-year design storm). DWSD will invest $50 million by 2029. The permit language identifies a number of specific green stormwater infrastructure project types, including downspout disconnections, demolition and removal of vacant structures, bioswales along roadways and parking lots, tree planting and other projects.

Where is Green Stormwater Infrastructure Happening and How Is It Working?

DWSD has implemented a variety of Green Stormwater Infrastructure projects in the Upper Rouge Tributary permit area to help reduce the amount of stormwater entering the city's combined sewer system.

View our current projects, as well as other public and private projects on the Detroit Stormwater Hub.


Projects implemented to date include the following:

Municipal Parks. DWSD is working with the Parks and Recreation Department, with support from the General Services Department, to integrate green stormwater infrastructure into Detroit’s parks to manage stormwater runoff from the park and adjacent roads. Green infrastructure can beautify parks while reducing the amount of stormwater entering the combined sewer system.

Roadways and Parking Lots. DWSD is currently working with the Detroit Department of Public Works (DPW) on several green stormwater infrastructure projects that integrate with planned road resurfacing projects. DWSD and DPW hosted community meetings in January and February 2015 to talk to community residents about these proposed projects in their neighborhoods. Fact sheets and community meeting summaries provide more detailed information.


Demolition and Greening Vacant Properties. Through demolitions and greening of vacant properties from 2010-2016, DWSD and other city departments, agencies, and organizations have removed approximately 3,141 acres of impervious cover citywide, with approximately 1,399 acres of impervious cover reduced in the Upper Rouge Tributary area. DWSD also contracted with Greening of Detroit to restore ten (10) Michigan Land Bank vacant lots in the area of Cody Rouge. DWSD completed construction of four bioretention gardens on vacant lots in the Cody Rouge neighborhood in November 2015. The fact sheets below provide more detailed information on the process for transforming these lots into beautiful gardens that will soak up storm water and reduce the amount entering the combined sewer system.

Municipal Properties. DWSD encourages the use of green stormwater infrastructure at municipal facilities. 

  • Charles Wright Academy – DWSD selected the Charles Wright Academy for a GSI project which began in 2021and was completed in 2022. The Rouge River sits behind the Charles Wright Academy. The two bioretention cells installed on either side of the school captures stormwater runoff coming from the school’s rooftop and parking lot and filters it before discharging into the Rouge River. The project reduces annuals flows to the combined sewer system by up to three million gallons. 
  • Crowell Recreation Center – DWSD removed two paved parking lots at the Crowell Recreation Center and replaced them with permeable block pavement and bioretention islands. Construction began in Spring 2018 and was completed in Spring 2019.

Tree Plantings. From 2010-2015, DWSD in conjunction with its partner, The Greening of Detroit, have planted more than 7,117 trees in the Upper Rouge Tributary area.

Downspout Disconnections. Since 2011, DWSD in conjunction with its partner, The Greening of Detroit, has hosted nearly 64 workshops on “how to” disconnect and provided free materials (e.g., downspout elbow, extender, and plug) to nearly 440 participants. DWSD is also conducting downspout disconnections as part of the Far West Stormwater Improvement Project.



Check back here for new information and updates on DWSD’s green stormwater infrastructure projects.

Program Annual Reports. DWSD prepares annual progress reports to document progress on the Green Stormwater Infrastructure Program for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and other interested organizations and residents. Reports documenting activities from 2010 to the present are available here.

How is Detroit Supporting Green Stormwater Infrastructure Implementation on Private Parcels?

Ensuring effective and efficient implementation of the stormwater management strategies in the Green Infrastructure Plan requires cooperation among city departments and a city code that supports green stormwater infrastructure. DWSD recently reviewed the city’s municipal code to identify possible barriers to implementing green stormwater infrastructure throughout Detroit. The review revealed a number of areas within the code that could be revised to support, incentivize or require the implementation of green stormwater infrastructure for stormwater management. DWSD and other city departments are working together to address the areas of the code that need improvement to support green stormwater infrastructure. This includes developing a new ordinance to require stormwater management on development and redevelopment projects after construction is complete, as well as revising the existing code.