Rain gardens are becoming increasingly popular in the home landscape. A rain garden is a natural or dug shallow depression designed to capture and soak up stormwater runoff from your roof or other impervious areas around your home like driveways, walkways, and even compacted lawn areas. They can be used as a buffer to shoreline areas to capture runoff from the home landscape before it enters a lake, pond, or river. The rain garden is planted with suitable trees, shrubs, flowers, and other plants allowing runoff to soak into the ground and protect water quality.
In addition to adding beauty to your home landscape, rain gardens can also help protect water quality, by reducing stormwater runoff from your house lot. Stormwater runoff is considered one of the main sources of water pollution nation-wide. As watersheds become developed, urbanization and an increase in paved surfaces such as parking lots, driveways, and rooftops increase stormwater runoff causing rainwater to run off quickly into storm drains and surface waters.
Stormwater runoff can result in:
- Overall reduction in groundwater recharge.
- Long-term lowering of groundwater tables and loss of stream flow during dry weather.
- Increased erosion.
- Increased water quality impacts caused by pollutants in stormwater runoff.
- Flooding – especially more frequent “flash” flooding.
A rain garden will allow the runoff generated on your property to infiltrate into the ground and help to reduce potential water quality problems. While your individual rain garden may seem like a small contribution, collectively, rain gardens can produce water quality benefits.
In addition to reducing and filtering stormwater runoff and increasing groundwater recharge, rain gardens provide many other benefits including:
- Provide habitat for wildlife and, with the proper plants, increase the number and diversity of birds and butterflies for those who enjoy watching them.
- Provide an attractive and creative alternative to traditional lawn landscapes.
- Require less maintenance than lawns because they do not need to be mowed, fertilized, or watered once established.
- Increase property values with creative landscaping designs.
- Reduce storm drain overload and flooding if adopted on a community or neighborhood scale.