Importance of Maintaining Environmental Cleanliness via Rain Gardens

Flooding in the Metro Detroit area, and in the State of Michigan as a whole, is a prevalent issue that is negatively affecting our surrounding environment. Due to climate change and increased carbon emissions, there has been a steady rise in severe rainfall events over the past decade. Usually when it rains, the ground soaks up rain water which filters it and deposits it into aquifers which replenishes our ground water supply. Unfortunately, these humongous rainfall occurrences have yielded an overflow to a point where the ground is unable to soak up water. The same concept goes for sump pumps found in household basements which collects and drains unwanted water and prevents flooding. With this overflowing however, it can lead to malfunctions and overflows in the sump pumps which explains the substantial amount of basements and overall flooding indecent years. Additionally, rainwater accumulates on impermeable surfaces such as roads and parking lots which is why there is flooding in neighborhoods and shopping areas. In fact, the flooding has become such a ubiquitous issue in Michigan that President Obama issued a disaster declaration for the State of Michigan in order to help with the estimated $1.1 million dollars in damages.  But where does this excess water go?

Usually, excess water flows into storm drains which deposits the water into rivers and lakes such as the Rouge River. What is problematic is that as the water flows into the storm drains, it picks up any chemicals, fertilizers, pollutants and litter along the way which contaminates our bodies of water. Furthermore, often times storm drains are closed off by debris and cause additional flooding. 

So what can we do to combat this issue?

What we can do as responsible stewards of our surrounding environment is devise methods of improving the flow of water and create more opportunities for the ground and storm drains to collect water to prevent flooding and contamination of waterways. Also, investing in semi-permeable parking lots and streets will be imperative to reduce the reliance on storm drains which easily malfunction due to clogging. A growing commodity in the realm of environmental initiatives come in the form of bioretention areas or rain gardens. Such are landscaping features adapted to provide on-site treatment of stormwater runoff. They are commonly located in parking lot islands or within small pockets of residential land uses. Surface runoff is directed into shallow, landscaped depressions. These depressions are designed to incorporate many of the pollutant removal mechanisms that operate in forested ecosystems. The rain garden fills with a few inches of water after a storm and the water slowly filters into the ground rather than running off to a storm drain. Compared to a conventional patch of lawn, a rain garden allows about 30% more water to soak into the ground. Moreover, a significant decrease in compounds such as chlorine, nitrogen, phosphorus and other particulate matter can be observed. Observe the significant differences in pollutant concentrations after two rain gardens were established in an EPA study: 

If that's not enough, rain gardens promote the beautification of our communities and promote the flourishing of native plants and animals. Such aesthetically pleasing areas can also serves as a source of vegetation and produce as well. 

Depicted is a local rain garden in Dearborn Heights which prevents flooding and runoff into the Rouge River.

Depicted is a local rain garden in Dearborn Heights which prevents flooding and runoff into the Rouge River.

An environmental initiate that will be taken on by MedEq is to promote the construction of a rain garden either on campus or in the Detroit area. The two pronged benefit scheme of rain gardens, decreased flooding and pollution along with city beautification, are substantive awards for such a project. In order to complete such a daunting task however, proper logistical planning along with assistance from determined individuals will be necessary. In the coming months, MedEq will be looking forward to growing its member base and recruit members to partake in this initiative, along with the countless others, and truly make a difference in the City of Detroit. 


1. "The State of Detroit’s Environment: An Initial Assessment Using the Framework of Environmental Justice." Sierra Club, 2014. Web.

2. "Bioretention (Rain Gardens)." Environmental Protection Agency, 2013. Web.

3. Spangler, Todd, and Bill Loiter. "Obama OKs Flood Disaster Aid for Metro Detroit." Detroit Free Press 26 Aug. 2014. Web.

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