HRWC and other watershed groups expand Green Stormwater Infrastructure

volunteers planting a rain garden
Planting green infrastructure in public places is both rewarding and fun! HRWC volunteers are literally “rain catchers” as they hand off plant plugs for a rain garden at Gibson Park in Wixom. Credit: HRWC

Rain Catchers Collective PartnersHRWC and other watershed groups in Southeast Michigan have formed an exciting new initiative called the Rain Catchers Collective to collaborate on regional projects to reduce stormwater runoff. Together, the partner organizations are encouraging Southeast Michigan residents and communities to become Rain Catchers so they can join a growing movement that is protecting the quality of the region’s lakes and rivers through proven rain collection practices, such as installing rain gardens and rain barrels. The Rain Catchers Collective will provide information, products, and services to help residents capture rainwater on their property. The Rain Catchers Collective was founded to meet a growing demand for these eco-friendly practices.

Humble Beginnings

The watershed organizations began working together and developing plans at the end of 2019. At that time, HRWC gathered with Friends of the Rouge, Clinton River Watershed Council, and Friends of the Detroit River to learn about what each organization was doing to assist residents with installing rain capture and treatment practices collectively known as Green Stormwater Infrastructure or GSI. We discovered that we were each moving similar projects forward, so we raised money to explore the region-wide market for GSI among homeowners and larger landowners. From this research, we generated a business plan that resulted in the formation of the Rain Catchers Collective.

As the first joint effort, the Rain Catchers Collective joined other regional partners and launched the first Southeast Michigan course, based on Washtenaw County’s Rain Garden class curriculum, to teach residents how to design and build rain gardens. The course runs for five weeks, and includes multi-media instruction, rain garden site tours, and small group assistance with certified rain garden experts from each of the watershed groups. The partners just completed our third annual course in March. Together, we have taught over 250 students to build rain gardens and become Rain Catchers themselves!

sod lawn beautiful rain garden
A. Davis got started with her rain garden transformation through the Washtenaw County Rain Garden Program. This successful County program has generated interest beyond its borders; the Rain Catchers Collective is stepping up to increase GSI projects and meet growing demand. Credit: A. Davis

Future Growth

Now that the Rain Catchers have planted seeds of resilience across neighborhoods, we are starting to expand our reach and impact. To fund these plans, we used elements from the business plan to craft a proposal. The proposed effort will launch an enterprise that will ultimately be sustained by its Rain Catcher customers. The proposed work includes:

  • Expand Residential GSI by providing more equitable access to services and supporting 350 installations with an emphasis on underserved communities. By year five, Rain Catchers will be installing 120 rain gardens per year, which is more than a six-fold increase over current rates.
  • Create a GSI Resilience Fund to support municipalities and community groups (schools, houses of worship, and other shared public spaces) with 40-50 high-impact projects across the watersheds.
  • Build a workforce that can meet the growing demand for a wide array of GSI services that this project will generate including planning, installing, and maintaining rain gardens, rain barrels, porous pavement and other GSI methods, as well as increasing supplies of native plants.
  • Support land acquisition via direct purchase or easements to protect areas critical for flood protection and pollution reduction, or for hosting larger GSI projects.
  • Foster a community of Rain Catchers who understand the role of GSI in risk reduction and climate resilience for SE Michigan, creating a shared regional identity among those who capture stormwater to protect local waterways.

The Rain Catchers Collective plans to formalize and grow our partnership, which will include a diverse advisory committee. We will also launch a significant grassroots marketing campaign to inform residents about the benefits of becoming a Rain Catcher and invite all to participate. The organizations will work together to share lessons learned, ensure technical resources are available, and share tools and expertise to build a greener and more resilient Southeast Michigan.

Dig In!

If you are ready to plant natives now, see our events page for upcoming native plant sales. While much of this new initiative has yet to be built, you can become an early Rain Catcher now and learn about opportunities as they get launched. To find out more and sign up for future announcements, go to

This blog post has also been published in the Huron River Report, Summer 2024.