In cities, stormwater can be a real problem. Impermeable surfaces prevent absorption of heavy rains and melted snow, leading to overflowing storm drains and flooding. One solution is the intoduction of more greenery in urban areas; planting trees is one way to achieve this, and increasingly, municipalities have also been installing rain gardens as a great way to both capture rain water and beautify the cityscape. Rain gardens are shallow depressions planted with native vegetation that can capture, drain and filter excess storm water in a short period of time.
In Kansas City, Mayor Kay Barnes has started a regional, voluntary initiative called 10,000 Rain Gardens to engage citizens in a plan to better manage stormwater. The city encourages homeowners, businesses and churches to plant rain gardens on their property, and starting in September, a philanthropic fund will begin financing garden installation on public and community grounds, as well as launching outreach and education programs. They're also encouraging people to paint barrels and create "rain banks" to save water "for a sunny day."
According to a spokesperson for the initiative:
The first campaign in the spring had an impact on awareness of the impacts of pollution running intro sewers and flowing untreated into streams. A recent survey revealed that Kansas Citians are among the most educated in the nation about where pollution in streams comes from, with 41% correctly citing stormwater runoff as #1 in non-point source pollution. That was a double-digit increase from the previous survey completed six months before the "10,000 Rain Gardens" campaign began.
After Kansas City experienced the warmest January on record, the idea of building rain gardens was appealing as a simple, beautiful and effective way to keep polluted runoff out of sewers and streams. Planting native prairie flowers and grasses became a way each homeowner could participate in serving the greater good.
I'm a resident of a Kansas City suburb, a law student, and a frequent visitor to this site. What is perhaps interesting and worldchanging about this initiative beyond the physical application of "rain garden technology" is that it is a regional initiative. Like many cities, "Kansas City" is composed of many distinct municipal entities (over 50 make up the KC metro area in two states) and many of the communities across the metro-area have decided to participate in this intitiative. The formulation and adoption of regional initiatives is vitally important to the sustainability of our cities.
The County of Los Angeles has installed Rain Gardens in our Sun Valley Park for recycling and they are very attractive.
Rain gardens can also be helpful mitigating "urban heat island" effects.
It's important to understand that the 10,000 rain gardens initiative is a metaphor for a larger 'green solutions' initiative. Developers and design engineers have created a labor intensive landscape which introduces massive amounts of impervious surfaces and focuses on redirection of stormwater istead of infiltration. So what's the problem with conventional development? It's expensive for the citizens. All this infrastructure needs to be repaired and/or replaced after 20+ years and it's the city's responsibility to replace it. Therefore, the more sewers and concrete channels we allow developers to construct the more money it will cost the city and taxpayers in the future to replace and maintain. Green solutions such as stream setback ordinances and preserving native soils during development protect the public from flooding, create and maintain functional landscapes and are less expensive to maintain than current practices. The 10,000 rain gardens initiative is an example of a nationwide shift to utilizing green technologies in order to solve the costy problems which have arisen from the poor planning of the past.
I haev built I raingardenin my backyard with my grandchildre. What a blast to spend time with them working in the great earth. The raingarden is growing very fast and is beautiful. Moscitoes are having a hard time making it but love to nest in it.
Neighbors walking by my home want to see it so I take them on a guided tour. Kind of a celebrity in the community. Keep up the good work.