News Flash

Water - News

Posted on: September 12, 2023

Rain Gardens on Parade in Southeast Michigan. Get on the map!


See the rain gardens in your neighborhood or add your own project to the RainScaping of Southeast Michigan crowdsourced map. 

Gardeners love to see other gardens. It is how we learn, get inspired,  and get ideas. Now you can see the rain garden your neighbor in one map, without leaving the comfort of your own home. Gardeners all over southeast Michigan have entered their photos to be included in a beautiful map to satisfy our eye, and curiosity. 

Get on the map here! 

Visit, answer a few questions, and upload photos of your project to get added to the map! 

Why rain gardens? 

Rain gardens do the heavy lifting of keeping our rivers clean. Rain gardens mimic the cleansing properties of forests and fields. In one research study, rain gardens removed more than 99 percent of oil and grease that was mixed in the stormwater! (National Management Measures to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Urban Areas, page 5-32).  Each rain garden does its part. 

The Rainscaping map quantifies the good rain gardens do - by adding up all our contributions. Together, they makeup 11.6 million gallons - and counting! - of rain that is soaked in and filtered every year. That is the same volume as 2,900 tanker trucks lined up - a line of trucks that would stretch for 44 miles. As people add in their rain gardens, tree plantings, and green roofs - this number gets bigger and bigger.  

What else can you do?

There are many practices that help keep our lakes and rivers clean. Most of them imitate nature and involve plants. Other projects on the map include:

  • planting a tree
  • installing a permeable patio
  • installing a rain barrel 
  • moving a downspout outlet from the driveway to a garden
  • removing pavement
  • or doing nothing at all! (Like not using pesticides on your lawn.) 

There is a project for anyone’s interests and fitness. 

How does pollution get into rainwater?

When water runs over hard surfaces like roofs, roads, and driveways - it picks up pollution. This is known as non-point source pollution.  It cannot be narrowed down to a single point like a factory outlet pipe. It is spread out over the landscape, and rainwater picks it up as it flows over the land. The pollution includes heavy metals from brake dust and phosphorus from fertilizers.  

What does pollution do to local water?

None of the substances above are good for lakes and streams. Phosphorus, for example, contributes to toxic algal blooms in local lakes, and Lake Erie. The state of Michigan is synonymous with lakes. When the lakes aren’t happy, Michigan isn’t happy. Rain gardens keep the phosphorus in the garden, where it contributes to healthy root growth, and happier plants - and out of the water where it makes trouble. 

You make a Difference!

Human activity put the pollution into the rainwater, so it is our responsibility to get it out.People might wonder if displaying their rain garden on the map really makes a difference. Yes! - When you build it, they will come.  

Program staff has noticed that putting up an explanatory sign in a rain garden inspires nearby neighbors to build one too. When one dot appears in a neighborhood, others pop up. In fact, the top influence on what people plant in their yards - is what their neighbors’ plant in their yards. 

By showing off their rain garden with a sign, or by being on the map - people can inspire their neighbors.  Creating that snowball effect by creating a platform for residents to show off their gardens was one of the reasons this map was developed. 

The map also serves as a gauge of how far we have come, and documentation of all the good works residents do to keep rivers clean. The map hopes to inspire people by showing off how people all over the region are doing good work. 

Learn to build rain gardens 

Two programs are offered locally. 

  • One is the Master Rain Gardener class, which teaches residents to design their own garden for their own yard - step by step. 
  • The other is Rain Gardens to the Rescue, where residents learn how to design and build rain gardens, and then help each other build them as a team. 

Both programs train residents to become rain garden experts, able to serve as ambassadors to their neighbors. There is probably a rain garden expert in your neighborhood, able to give advice. Or, check out the Master Rain Gardener Facebook group for local folks who will gently give advice on your garden plans and conundrums..  

Other services

  • Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office is committing its support to promoting rain gardens so much, staff will come out and give individualized advice to residents in Washtenaw County, for free
  • Friends of the Rouge offers a similar service, for a fee. During the visit, staff give technical advice. Where to put this rain garden? How to dig it? What flowers to include? They suggest solutions, and then each solution is prioritized according to the lifestyle and preferences of the resident.  

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