Photo of residential rain garden in Puyallup, Wash., courtesy of WSU Extension
SEATTLE – The Puget Sound region is embarking on a visionary campaign to install 12,000 rain gardens by 2016 under the leadership of Washington State University Extension and the nonprofit Stewardship Partners.
“Rain gardens are a smart, proven, cost-effective way to help address the number one source of pollution in Puget Sound, reduce flooding, and potentially increase home values,” said Curtis Hinman, WSU adjunct associate professor and extension educator and an internationally recognized expert on low impact development including rain gardens.
Soaking up 160 million gallons
“The 12,000 Rain Garden Campaign is an important undertaking that will provide a direct benefit to our region’s natural riches, while giving members of the public the chance to protect our clean water,” explained Stewardship Partners’ executive director David Burger.
“These 12,000 rain gardens will soak up about 160 million gallons of polluted runoff each year,” Burger added. Stewardship Partners is a widely respected nonprofit conservation organization helping businesses, landowners and homeowners achieve environmental protection.
Rooftop, driveway runoff
A rain garden is a landscape feature for yards designed to capture and filter polluted stormwater runoff from rooftops and driveways, using it to grow a variety of flowers and plants and create habitat for birds and butterflies. The campaign will engage the public in rain garden installation through workshops, demonstration sites, mentors, partnerships, incentives and other resources.
The 12,000 Rain Garden Campaign will take advantage of dozens of public and private partners (from Seattle Public Utilities to Boeing), helping citizens participate in the effort to achieve this ambitious goal.
For the past several years, both WSU Extension and Stewardship Partners have worked with hundreds of homeowners across the region overseeing the successful installations of rain gardens.
Part of the appeal of rain gardens is their economic value – doing the job of multi-million dollar public storm water projects at a fraction of the cost. Rain gardens also allow for beautiful home landscaping projects that can accommodate all levels of gardening skill.
Workshops, tours, research
The 12,000 Rain Gardens Campaign offers homeowners, city and county agencies, businesses and others free workshops and tours, providing a strong, research-based foundation to get started on building successful rain gardens.
The campaign includes the Rain Gardens Cluster Program, which has been implemented with great success in communities like Puyallup and Eatonville, with funding from the Boeing Charitable Trust. Under this program, homeowners who find six or more adjacent neighbors to participate can all be eligible for free rain garden installations.
Kickoff events, demonstrations
A 10 rain garden cluster installation and planting event is planned for the town of Eatonville on May 7, followed by an eight rain garden cluster in Burien on May 14, and a 13 rain garden cluster installation in Puyallup on June 4.
These projects in collaboration with WSU Extension will demonstrate how homeowners can easily treat their stormwater and protect local waterways by using attractive and easily constructed rain gardens and by employing natural yard care best practices. The program also helps put people in touch with experienced rain garden designers and contractors.
The 12 WSU county Extension offices in the Puget Sound region are providing information and educational outreach and serving as local contact points for those interested in rain garden installation.