Michigan Map Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project
The Rouge River Project
Bringing the river back to life!
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Combined Sewer Overflow Control ProgramBrief SummaryOverview Description of the CSO Control ProgramWhat are CSOs?CSO Demonstration ProjectsMDEQ Criteria for Success in CSO TreatmentTechnical Papers and Professional Presentations on CSO Control ProgramCSO Technical Reports - Monitoring and OtherEmerging Information on CSO Facility PerformanceEnvironmental Results

Environmental Results To Date


Wayne County's Rouge Project has been enormously successful in its goal to restore the Rouge River to its designated uses. At the center of this effort is the Rouge Project's combined sewer overflow (CSO) control program. As recently as 1995 the River was suffering from gross pollution with the water quality standards being violated essentially all of the time in the main reaches of the River. The Rouge River was designated by the International Joint Commission as one of the most significant sources of pollution to the Great Lakes system. There were fish consumption advisories in place and the county health department had prohibited total body contact. The citizens and industry had turned their backs, literally and figuratively, on the River because it was so grossly polluted.

The monitoring program of the Rouge Project showed that in addition to controlling CSOs, other sources of pollution, such as storm water, needed to be controlled before full restoration of the river would be achieved throughout the watershed. Based upon what was learned, the focus of the Rouge Project became more holistic to consider the impacts from all sources of pollution and use impairments in receiving waters. The challenge for the Rouge Project became to develop innovative solutions to achieve water quality objectives that may be: 1) more cost-effective, 2) implemented in a more timely fashion and 3) better able to meet local needs. It has also become clear that water resources management must have the support of the general public in order to be effective and to become self-sustaining. The Rouge Project has provided a unique opportunity for a watershed-wide approach to restoring and protecting an urban river system by using a cooperative, locally based approach to pollution control. However, it is very important to remember that the CSO control program is at the heart of this success story.

The water quality improvements that have occurred as a result of the Rouge Project are striking. The Long-Term Monitoring Network of the Rouge Project includes continuous measurement of Rouge River dissolved oxygen (DO) content at five key locations. Adequate dissolved oxygen content is one key element of a healthy river ecosystem. The DO measurements are made from mid-April through mid-November each year. Most sites have been monitored since 1994. Since the measurements are continuous, they show the combined effect of dry and wet weather conditions in the river. A review of the 2003 data from these long-term monitoring locations is summarized below.

The water quality in the Rouge River continued to show the very encouraging trend of continuous improvement because of the CSO control efforts and other watershed restoration efforts. The MDEQ water quality standard for DO is 5 mg/l. The mean DO in the lower reaches of the Rouge River has increased from 4.5 mg/l in 1994 to over 7.0 mg/l in 2003. The percent of DO readings that violated the DO standard of 5 mg/l dropped from 61 percent in 1994 to less than 4 percent in 2003. Similar improvements occurred at all stations in the watershed where those upper river stations met the standard 100% of the time. The water quality improvements that are occurring clearly reflect the benefits of the watershed management strategies that have been implemented to address and control both dry and wet weather pollution sources in the watershed.

Coupled with the water quality improvements, the ecosystem health continues to improve as well. This improvement is demonstrated by the results of the annual Frog and Toad Survey which is conducted by volunteers surveying various locations in the watershed. Frogs and toads are sensitive indicators of ecosystem health because they require clean water and good quality habitat to survive. The volunteers heard a greater number of green frogs, bullfrogs, and northern leopard frogs during the 2003 survey than they did in the previous year. Leopard frogs have been undergoing a nationwide and statewide decline in recent years so it was very good news that they continue to survive in the Rouge watershed. Green frogs were also heard in a higher percentage of blocks and were calling in every subwatershed. The possible statewide decline of green frogs reported by the Michigan statewide survey may not be happening in the Rouge River Watershed. Bullfrogs, while never numerous in the Rouge River Watershed, were reported from more urban areas in the watershed this year than in past years.

The aesthetics of the river are greatly improved. Also, there are more sightings of larger and more diverse species of fish. Salmon are now migrating up the Rouge River. And finally, the recreational use of the River is expanding at an increasing rate. Wayne County hosts an annual triathlon along and in the Rouge River. Canoe liveries are booming along the River.


Last Updated: 4/16/2005

Please address all comments and suggestions about the contents of this Web page to rougeweb@co.wayne.mi.us.

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 and C-264000-01.