Watershed Project


Enhancing partnerships within the Shiawassee River Watershed to promote water quality



Do you live within the Shiawassee River Waterhsed?

A watershed is an area of land where all the water that is under it or drains off it goes to the same place. For residents within the Shiawssee River Watershed, that "place" is the Shiawassee River. The Shiawassee River flows for 110 miles northeast from its headwaters in Livingston and Oakland Counties. It connects with several other river systems, including the Flint River, Cass River, and Titabawassee River. Together, these waterways form the Saginaw River, which drains into the Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron. The Shiawassee River Watershed is a sub-watershed of the Saginaw Bay Basin. 


Why Do Watersheds Matter?

In a watershed, the choices and actions that communities take upstream affect water quality in all communities that are downstream. So for better or for worse, the policies that affect water quality in Fenton, are impacting our water quality here in Owosso, and the water quality in Lake Huron. We live in a watershed system, and our approach to protecting water quality should reflect that. This principal is at the heart of the Shiawassee Watershed Project, a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funded grant project organized by FOSR and Michigan State Univerzity's Planning & Zoning Center.

 Project Background

The Saginaw River and Bay are designated as an Area of Concern by the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.), meaning that the health of the Bay is in jeopardy, creating problems for fish, wildlife, and people. Lake Huron and the Saginaw Bay are tremendous economic assets to the state of Michigan, making their restoration important to residents.

In order to restore this area, small impacts need to be made in many places upstream of the Bay. This means addressing poor water quality issues here in the Shiawassee River Watershed, which flows directly into the Saginaw Bay. The Great Lakes are closer to home than watershed residents may think!

Focusing on Water Quality in Rural Communities

It's not enough to focus on reducing water pollutants within larger, urbanized areas. Rural regions and smaller localities aren't subject to some of the storm water restrictions that the EPA places on larger, urbanized areas. Rural areas also contribute greatly to issues of sedimention (excess erosion of soil into the river) and nutrient loading (an excess of fertilizers, like phosphorous) in the Bay. Sedimentation and nutrient loading are what caused the Saginaw Bay algae bloom of 2011. Large algae blooms can turn drinking water toxic, cause massive fish die-off, and cover popular summer beaches with rancid muck.

However, it can be challenging for small villages and townships to find the resources to address water quality issues. Smaller localities are often under-funded, under-staffed, and lacking in the expertise necessary to enact water quality projects, making them a low priority issue.

For these reasons, the Friends of the Shiawassee River partnered with MSU's Planning & Zoning Center  to enhance partnerships within the Shiawassee River Watershed to promote water quality. By sharing knowledge and resources concerning water quality; the municipalities, local community organizations, universaties, and state/federal governments that an interest in our rural watershed are better poised to effectively address water quality. 

 Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

At the second basin-wide conference sponsored by Michigan State University and its partners, attendees learned about local and regional efforts to protect and improve water quality in the Saginaw Basin. Water quality protection leaders and interested citizens were invited to attend the 2014 conference to hear about water quality restoration achievements and discuss opportunities for future improvements. This conference provided an opportunity to learn about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative's progress in the Saginaw Bay Watershed. Topics discussed included the renewed Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement; the new Michigan Water Strategy; policy issues impacting water quality; stormwater and nutrients; and local tools and technologies that can help improve water quality.

Click here to view the agenda.

Click here to view FOSR's presentation on our 2014 GLRI Project: Engaging Rural Communities on Watershed Issues.

For links to additional presentations and other conference resources, visit MSU's Planning & Zoning Center's Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference webpage

 Water Quality Workshops

Planning & Zoning to Protect Water Quality in the Shiawassee River Watershed

This Water Quality Workshop series presented local elected officials and stakeholders with the chance to learn about the role of the Shiawassee River Watershed in the Saginaw Basin, existing water quality issues, and opportunities for local official to prevent future pollution.

The same content was presented at each workshop. All attendees received a copy of the "Rural Water Quality Protection: A Planning & Zoning Guidebook for Local Officials", and worked through a self-audit tool to assess how their local government is meeting water quality needs.


Workshop Dates:

  • February 27th, 2014; Baker College Conference Center in Owosso

  • March 11th, 2014; Rustic Inn in St. Charles

  • March 13th, 2014; Fenton Community Center

All workshops occur from 6:00 - 9:00 pm.

Click here for the Workshop brochure.

For more information on the workshop and tools for best water quality management practices, contact deving@shiawasseeriver.org 

 Inaugural Shiawassee River Watershed Summit

Did you attend our October 17th Summit? Please visit our Watershed Summit Event Page for some additional resources and follow-up information specific to this event. 


If you are a local government official, an employee of a locally focused conservation agency, or an inspired community member within the Shiawassee Watershed, please contact Devin Gill, Director of the Friends of the Shiawassee River for more information on what you can do to help.




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