September News to Us is here with the latest water and environment news from the Huron River watershed, Michigan, and the U.S. This month’s articles focus on climate change and green infrastructure. Read below for articles on how climate change impacts river health and storm severity as well as information on efforts across Southeast Michigan to install green infrastructure to curb pollution and flooding.

As climate change warms rivers, they are running out of breath – and so could the plants and animals they harbor
A new study from Penn State University found widespread deoxygenation, or declining oxygen levels, in rivers across the U.S. and Europe as they experience warming temperatures due to climate change. The study used historic data and artificial intelligence to predict day-to-day temperature and oxygen levels in nearly 800 rivers. On average, U.S. rivers are warming by 0.29 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, with urban rivers experiencing the most rapid warming. Dissolved oxygen measures the amount of oxygen gas in water and indicates a water body’s general livability for benthic macroinvertebrates, fish, and other aquatic life. As dissolved oxygen declines, river life suffers. To learn more about dissolved oxygen levels and water temperatures across the Huron River watershed, visit Infostream, our interactive digital map tool.

A flooding parking lot in Canton, Michigan after a large storm in August 2023.
A flooded shopping center in Canton following extreme storms in late August. Photo credit: Eric Seals and Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press

Crowd-sourced green infrastructure map now available
The Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office, the Friends of the Rouge, and the Washtenaw County GIS program have launched a new interactive green infrastructure map displaying residential stormwater projects such as rain gardens, green roofs, and rain barrels. Together, these green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) features across Southeast Michigan capture and filter up to 11.6 million gallons of stormwater runoff, which protects local rivers and waterways from erosion and pollution. The free tool, called Rainscaping in Southeast Michigan, is crowd-sourced and allows residents to add their own GSI projects to the map.

Huron-Clinton Metroparks work to expand green infrastructure to prevent flooding
The Huron Clinton Metroparks are working to improve stormwater management and reduce flooding across their 25,000 acres of land in the Huron and Clinton River watersheds. Using green infrastructure features, the Metroparks aim to capture stormwater and allow it to infiltrate into the ground rather than flood basements and streets. Thanks to a new U.S Environmental Protection Agency grant, the Metroparks are partnering with the Wyandot of Anderdon Nation to plant native plants and restore wetlands at Oakwoods Metropark along the Huron River.

Record tornadoes, heat waves, wildfires: Climate disasters increasing everywhere including Michigan
In late August, Southeast Michigan saw widespread damage from multiple severe thunderstorms that brought nearly nearly 7 inches of rain and seven tornados to the area. This “500-year” storm event sent nearly 1 million gallons of untreated sewage into the Huron River and left thousands of residents with flooded basements and no power. Beyond Michigan, the United States also witnessed a string of record-setting disasters in recent weeks, including fires in Hawaii, Tropical Storm Hilary in California, and triple-digit heat waves across the South. Scientists expect weather events, such as the storms in late August, to increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change. Organizations such as the Michigan Region of American Red Cross encourage residents to prepare for intensifying storm events by preparing emergency kits and plans.

Homeowners and communities encouraged to check septic systems this week
The third week of September marks SepticSmart Week! This week brings attention to the importance of septic system maintenance in protecting water quality and public health. With over 1.3 million systems through the state, Michigan homeowners can play a part in protecting river health by ensuring their septic systems are properly functioning. For more information on how to maintain your septic system, visit HRWC’s Septic System Take Action page.