Rain Gardens

Impervious pavement and houses have taken up large swaths of soil that once slowed and cleaned the water. Our streets and housing developments have been designed to see this life-giving resource as a problem and deal with it by routing it into the nearest urban stream. Placing cuts into our street and parking lot curbs to route water into nearby rain gardens is one easy solution.

Rain gardens make an important contribution to our community by holding rainwater and allowing it to slowly filter into the ground instead of flowing directly into the sewer. This retention reduces the amount of water surging into urban streams and helps keep them from becoming eroded and undercut. Water in a properly designed rain garden is drained within 24 hours.

The best plants for rain gardens are natives because they are low-maintenance and provide food and habitat for insects and other visiting wildlife.

What Watershed Are You In?

A watershed is drainage basin that collects water (from rain or snow melt) and channels the drainage into increasingly larger streams and rivers. A particular watershed includes every square inch of soil within that drainage basin.

Watersheds serve as natural networks that connect us with both our closest and our distant neighbors. Whatever our upstream neighbors put into their waterways affects us and all our downstream neighbors. Any steps we can take to cleanse our local watersheds improves the quality of life for all downstream humans, animals, and plants.

The stream miles in Iowa have dramatically increased since our settlement here. Prairies, with their deep root systems, once acted as a sponge, soaking up massive amounts of water and cleaning it at the same time. Just a couple hundred years ago, our streams and rivers ran clear—they were not filled with the sediment and debris found in today’s waterways

Rain Garden Design and Installation

Instructions for installing a rain garden in the Midwest can be found on the following websites:

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) rain garden resources
Iowa Rain Garden Design and Installation Manual
(PDF)
Wisconsin Rain Garden Manual (PDF-excellent visuals and planting diagrams)
Rainscaping Iowa

Rain Garden Reimbursement

Your city may reimburse you for a portion of your rain garden materials.
Iowa City Sormwater Management and Expense Reimbursement

Low-interest loans are available through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
Stormwater Best Management Practices Loan Application