Photo: A mature rain garden in North Bay, Ontario (Source: http://www.raingardentour.ca/ontario.html)
Rain gardens are inexpensive and simple to build. They are an environmentally sound method of managing urban stormwater runoff with the added benefit of beautifying city streets and neighbourhoods. These bowl shaped gardens capture rain onsite and reduce the amount of runoff entering storm sewers. As well they improve the quality of water entering local waterbodies and reduce flood risk.
With all the benefits this simple green infrastructure provides it is no surprise a growing number of North American cities are supporting the installation of rain gardens. The City of Calgary has created three large demonstration rain gardens in an area where traditional stormwater management technologies were not feasible. Thunder Bay, in partnership with GCC member organisation EcoSuperior, created a Rain Garden Rebate program. Residents can receive up to $500 towards the creation of a rain garden on their property, and the City has also provided free courses on proper construction and maintenance.
The positive impact of rain gardens increases with the installation of multiple gardens. In Maplewood, Minnesota, the City offers rain gardens to residents who live on streets undergoing road reconstruction. The City digs out the site, provides plants, and helps plant the rain garden. Since 1996, Maplewood has installed over 700 boulevard rain gardens maintained by homeowners and 60 rain gardens on city land maintained by city staff.
Rain gardens can also be strategically placed for collective impact. This is the philosophy behind initiatives like 12,000 Rain Gardens in Puget Sound. Currently, local governments in the watershed provide financial incentives and rebates to support residents who build rain gardens. In places like Seattle, the building of rain gardens in targeted sewer overflow basins is encouraged through rebates to hire a trained rain garden contractor.
While the popularity of rain gardens continues to grow few Canadians know how to properly design and build one. Many ‘engineered’ infiltration solutions minimize the importance of soil, plants and roots to maximize infiltration and reduce flood risk.
To help increase the capacity of Canadians to build functioning and beautiful rain gardens Green Communities Canada is hosting a two-day workshop (October 27- 28) on how to design and build rain gardens. Facilitated by one of North America’s leading rain garden experts, Rusty Schmidt, the workshop is geared towards conservation professionals, landscape professionals, gardeners, master gardeners and stormwater engineers. In addition to design and construction tips the workshop will also include information on how plants and roots work to soak up runoff and reduce flood risk. More details and to register.
This article was published in The Umbrella Stormwater Bulletin Issue #49.
Would you like to see more rain gardens in your community?
- a) Yes - they are beautiful (10%, 2 Votes)
- b) Yes - they are beautiful and functional (90%, 19 Votes)
- c) No - they are just another garden fad (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 21