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DWSD.ORG, the official website of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Green Infrastructure

What is Green Infrastructure and
How Can it Help Detroit?

Green infrastruclure can mean a lot of things to different people in Detroit. To DWSD green infrastructure is a collection of storm water management approaches intended to soak up storm water where it falls before it can enter the sewer system. It is green because these approaches, whether completely natural or constructed, often use trees and native plants to soak up storm water. It is infrastructure because these approaches work together to create a low-cost system for managing storm water.

Whatever we can do in Detroit and southeast Michigan to soak up storm water instead or letting it drain into the sewer system will take the load off the Detroit WWTP and keep our rivers and lakes clean.

  Learn more about Detroit Storm Water

roof garden
Rain Garden


Green Roof


Mature Rain Garden


Permeable Pavement


Rain Garden

Map of COD Green Ingrastructure Projects
Locations of GI Projects

What are Green Infrastructure Approaches?

There are many green infrastructure approaches you can consider trying at your home, business, church, or school. Selece a type of green infrastructure approach to learn more about what it is and how to do it on your property.

  Downspout disconnection
  Rain barrels
  Rain Gardens

  Planter boxes
  Permeable pavement
  Bioswale

What Are the Benefits of Green Infrastructure?

Some possible benefits of trying green infrastructure on your property include:

Reduced storm water drainage charge through DWSD’s future Green Rewards program.
Beautification and increased property values. Homes with new street plantings can increase in property value by up to 10 percent (CNT 2010)
Reduced violence rates. Greened parcels are associated with reduced gun assaults, vandalism, and stress. Greened parcels can also support increased exercise and healthy actions (SEMCOG 2014).
Reduced wastewater treatment costs citywide. Using green infrastructure to reduce 20 percent of storm water runoff from major roads in the City of Detroit can reduce treatment costs by approximately $2 million annually (SEMCOG 2014).

What is DWSD's Green Infrastructure Plan?

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

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

   DWSD Green Infrastructure Plan for the Upper Rouge Tunnel Area August 2014 (PDF)

Where is Green Infrastructure Happening and How Is It Working?

DWSD has implemented a variety of Green Infrastructure projects in the Upper Rouge Tunnel area to help reduce the amount of storm water entering the combined sewer system.

This map shows the location of many of these projects:

   Map of City of Detroit Green Infrastructure Projects (PDF, 259K, 11" x 17")

Projects implemented to date include the following:

Tree Plantings. Since 2010, DWSD in conjunction with its partner, The Greening of Detroit, have planted over 4,000 trees in the Upper Rouge Tunnel area.

Demolition and Greening Vacant Properties. Between January 2014 and September 2015 there have been approximately 1,750 demolitions completed within the Upper Rouge Tunnel area through the Neighborhood Stabilization Area funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 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.

   Bringing Green Infrastructure to Vacant Lots in the Cody Rouge Neighborhood in 2015: Project Overview (PDF, 4 pp., 664 KB)
   Making Vacant Lots Work for Detroit: Technical Project Brochure (PDF, 2 pp., 4390 KB)
   Discover and Enjoy Cody Rouge’s New Bioretention Gardens: Community Informational Flyer (PDF, 2 pp., 1069 KB)

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.

Roadways and Parking Lots. DWSD is currently working with the Detroit Department of Public Works (DPW) on several green 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.

   Tireman Street Green Infrastructure Project Fact Sheet (PDF, 4 pp., 1.6 MB)
   Artesian Street Green Infrastructure Project Fact Sheet (PDF, 4 pp., 1 MB)
   Keeler Street Green Infrastructure Project Fact Sheet (PDF, 4 pp., 1 MB)
   Constance Street Green Infrastructure Project Fact Sheet (PDF, 4 pp., 772K)
   Keeler Street Meeting Summary (PDF, 3 pp., 226K)
   Tireman Street and Artesian Street Meeting Summaries (PDF, 5 pp., 229K)

Municipal Properties. DWSD encourages the use of green infrastructure at municipal facilities. For example, the Detroit Department of Public Works is discussing options for incorporating green infrastructure at its Michigan Avenue facility.

Check back here for updates on DWSD’s green infrastructure projects as more information becomes available.

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

   DWSD Green Infrastructure Progress Report August 2015 (PDF, 57 pp., 3.8 MB)
   DWSD Green Infrastructure Progress Report August 2014 (PDF, 27 pp., 1.8 MB)
   DWSD Green Infrastructure Progress Report August 2013 (PDF, 26 pp., 4.9 MB)
   DWSD Green Infrastructure Progress Report June 2012 (PDF, 34 pp., 8.3 MB)
   DWSD Green Infrastructure Progress Report June 2011 (PDF, 9 pp., 822K)