April / May 2011
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Rain Gardens for Stormwater Control

The first principle of stormwater management is to treat stormwater as close as possible to where it falls. Keeping stormwater out of a built structure of sewers and pipes is cheaper and can be an asset to the natural environment.

One attractive and useful way to treat stormwater is to direct it to a rain garden. A rain garden is a natural or man-made depression that is designed to temporarily fill with rainwater or snowmelt permitting water to gradually drain into the soil. Water is directed to the garden through downspouts, swales, or rock-lined channels. The gardens are planted with climate-adapted, deep-rooted plants. An additional benefit of a rain garden is that it can provide resources for pollinators such as bees, birds, and bats. It also adds a variation in habitat for wildlife.

Katie Swartz , associate director of the Clean Water Program for American Rivers, works with rain gardens in northwest Ohio. She says, “anything a homeowner can do to put less water into storm drains will prevent backups into basements and houses, and will also reduce combined sewer overflows that can happen when the sanitary system gets overwhelmed with stormwater.” She works with homeowners and has also worked with new construction design at Bowsher High School in Toledo.

People interested in constructing a rain garden can find plans at the American Rivers website, and The Toledo-Lucas County Rain Garden Initiative. These websites include lists of plants that are appropriate for rain gardens. Gardeners can also ask for Maumee Valley Natives at area greenhouses. Engineering plans for larger bio-retention projects are on these websites.

Rain garden on Erie St. in downtown Toledo at the City of Toledo Division of Environmental Services offices.

Photo courtesy of City of Toledo, Division of Environmental Services.

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