Watershed Planning

Watershed planning is essential to help communities understand and address pollutant effects on our lakes, river, wetlands and groundwater. Careful watershed planning does more than protect water, plants and animals. It paints a picture of a watershed, highlighting features that need restoration and protection efforts.

What is a Watershed?
A watershed is any area of land where all the water (surface and groundwater) drains to a common water body.
What is a Watershed Management Plan?
A watershed management plan is a document that identifies water quality concerns in a watershed, proposes solutions, and creates a strategy for putting those solutions in action.
How Does the Shiawassee Conservation District develop and update a Watershed Management Plan?

To characterize our watersheds, the Shiawassee Conservation District conducts a variety of inventories. District staff walk miles of ditches and drains, documenting the things we observe including erosion, algae, smells, vegetation and water flow. Other assessments include using scent detection dogs to track human pathogens in surface water and water sampling for lab analysis of bacteria and nutrients. Inventory findings build a foundation of decision–making, establishing priorities, and recommendations for making a healthy watershed.

How Does the Shiawassee Conservation District Use Watershed Management Plans?

The goal of watershed planning is to develop a framework toward an environmentally and economically healthy watershed that benefits all who have a stake in it. A Watershed Management Plan details priority areas and recommendations to address issues identified during the inventory phase. This information is used when applying for funding for the next implementation phase. We have had some amazing successes in improving and protecting the watersheds of Shiawassee County!

Everyone lives in a watershed and our actions affect others in the watershed and throughout Michigan!

Shiawassee County’s Major Watersheds

Use the map to find what major watershed you live in. Learn more about your watershed and where your water flows!

Shiawassee River Watershed
The Shiawassee River is 110 miles long and connects to the Flint River, Cass River, and Tittabawassee River to form the Saginaw River which drains to the Saginaw Bay and then to Lake Huron. Over 180.000 people live in the Shiawassee River Watershed, which covers 742,400 acres of agriculture, urban, forest and natural areas.The Shiawassee Conservation District developed a Mid-Shiawassee River Watershed Plan in 2002, and updated it in 2012.
The Shiawassee River Watershed boasts many special resources including one of the best preserved warm-water river systems in the southern Great Lakes. The watershed supports 59 species of fish and 12 species of freshwater mussel. Three categories of wildlife support hunting and/or recreation in the watershed: Openland (quail, pheasant, rabbit, white-tailed deer); Woodland (squirrels, ruffed grouse, woodcocks, white-tailed deer); and Wetland (muskrat, beaver, ducks, geese, minks). There are six county parks within Shiawassee County and a 100-acre YMCA outdoor education center along the river.
There are 11,000 acres of wetlands in the watershed, with an average size of 4.5 acres. There are approximately 12,000 septic systems in the watershed, in Shiawassee County.
Flint River Watershed
The Flint River and its tributaries form a network draining about 1,332 square miles. The main river is approximately 142 miles and its basin contains portions of seven southeast and mid-Michigan counties. The Flint River is the principal tributary of the Shiawassee River. Its major tributaries include the North and South Branch Flint rivers, and Kearsley, Thread, Swartz, and Misteguay Creek.
The Misteguay Creek is located within the Flint River Watershed. It flows to the Flint River, which joins with the Shiawassee River and eventually drains to the Saginaw Bay then to Lake Huron. The Misteguay Creek Watershed covered 111,603 acres of land dominated by agriculture, with some urban, forest and wetland acres.
Extensive portions of the Misteugay Creek and its tributaries have been heavily modified to facilitate drainage to support agriculture. In the Watershed are 1,615 acres of wetlands with an average size of 16 acres each. There are approximately 2,900 septic systems in the Upper Misteguay Creek Watershed, which includes nearly 86,000 acres primarily in northeast Shiawassee County.
The Shiawassee Conservation District recently developed an Upper Misteguay Watershed Management Plan.
Maple River Watershed
The Maple River flows 61 miles before it joins the Grand River and flows to Lake Michigan. The Maple River Watershed covers 604,226 acres of predominately agricultural land with limited forested, wetland and urban areas.
Special resources in the watershed include the Maple River State Game Area, which is located within the watershed. It supports thousands of ducks, geese, and swans in wetlands during migration. There are four main parks in the watershed, including Sleepy Hollow State Park.
There are 27,284 acres of wetlands in the watershed, with an average size of 5.4 acres. There are approximately 10,000 septic systems in the watershed.
The Clinton Conservation District developed an Upper Maple River Watershed Management Plan in 2010. A canine investigation by the Clinton Conservation District shows a presence of human waste in 79% of streams. The Shiawassee Conservation District has recently begun an implementation project based on recommendations in the plan. Activities through this project will address human and nonhuman sources of bacteria, nutrients and sediment. Included are the Septic System Assistance Program and incentives for conservation practices. Through this project, the Watershed Management Plan will also be updated to include new water sampling data and revised recommendations.
Looking Glass River Watershed
The Looking Glass River travels 65 miles before it joins with the Grand River and flows to Lake Michigan. The Looking Glass River watershed covers 130,532 acres of land. A little more than half is agriculture, the rest is a mixture of forested, wetland and urban land.
The Shiawassee Conservation District recently updated the Upper Looking Glass Watershed Management Plan, originally developed by the Clinton Conservation District in 2008. A general finding discovered through the updating process is that human waste is present in nearly half the streams throughout the Upper Looking Glass Watershed, and bacteria levels are extremely high.
The Looking Glass River Watershed is home to a diversity of wildlife including ducks, herons, cranes, raptors, fox, mink, coyotes and white-tailed deer. Other special resources include the Rose Lake Wildlife Area and 539 acres of lakes and ponds, with 19 prominent lakes offering significant recreational benefits. There are 27,050 acres of wetlands, with an average size of 6.5 acres located throughout the watershed. There are approximately 7,000 septic systems in the watershed.