The rainy season is upon us early in 2016, with blustery storms to remind us why our region needs to work so hard on managing the stormwater that washes across the region all winter long.
Since 2011, the RainWise program, a partnership between the City of Seattle and King County, has been offering rebates for rain gardens and/or cisterns to property owners in more and more neighborhoods of Seattle. As of September, 2016, the program surpassed 1,000 installations.
We’re talking about 1,000 properties where rain gardens and/or cisterns are hard at work reducing polluted runoff by managing stormwater on site instead of directing it into the combined sewer system or storm drains. Together these 1,000 projects will manage over 16 million gallons of stormwater annually to protect our area’s waterways.
All RainWise property owners are neighborhood stewards providing area-wide benefit. Some were inspired to do their part to help local waterways and our regional jewel, Puget Sound. Other residents joined to replace lawns with attractive, low-maintenance landscaping. Others came on board to use the water that cisterns store for use in their gardens over the summer. Everyone comes out a winner: the property owners and the rest of us who benefit from their efforts.
You can find out if you’re eligible to join our growing group of RainWise stewards, and attend workshops and contractor fairs. On October 15, 2016, interested residents can attend a contractor fair from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Highland Park Improvement Club, 1116 Southwest Holden Street in Seattle.
Every RainWise steward has a unique story to tell. Here are just a few of them:
Sooz and her family have two rain gardens, front and back, as well as a 400-gallon cistern. She was excited to work with her contractor, Vireo Design Studio, on the plant selection for each garden. She and her family love how low-maintenance the rain gardens are. Water stored in their cistern makes watering easy in the summer. They received a much needed bonus: redirecting the downspouts solved a flooding problem in their garage!
Bill and Kurt viewed RainWise as a perfect opportunity to help Puget Sound on their years-long journey to remove lawn and naturalize their landscape. Inspired by other rain gardens near them, they signed up for RainWise as they were designing the north side of their property. Landscape designer Nancy Fasoldt integrated a rain garden into an attractive, natural landscape. “From the moment we learned about rain gardens, we have been sold on them!”
Neighbors can join forces to maximize local benefits. On 34th Ave SW in Westwood, four families on the same block got together to get RainWise at the same time. This helped the RainWise contractor they chose, Homegrown Organics, save them money and reduce truck trips to the neighborhood. “Working with clusters for RainWise is a game changer” says John Coghlan, RainWise contractor. “It involves the community more than a single garden ever could. It leaves a memory stamp that everyone gets to keep.”
RainWise is not just for homeowners! Businesses, religious centers, and community organizations in rebate-eligible areas can also apply for the program. Larger roofs shed more stormwater, and since the rebate is based on square footage, qualify for a larger rebate. Highland Park Methodist Church built a large terraced rain garden and three big cisterns. This installation redirects runoff from over 7,000 square feet of roof area. This new system keeps up to 125,000 gallons of stormwater out of the sewer system every year. Church leadership celebrated how RainWise brought their community together around a shared goal, beautified the property, and protects the environment.
To see more RainWise stories, visit the RainWise Virtual Tour.
Since its inception in 2011 in Ballard, the RainWise rebate program has grown to include 21 eligible drainage basins throughout Seattle. Over 50,000 private properties are eligible for RainWise rebates. RainWise is a joint effort of King County Wastewater Treatment Division and Seattle Public Utilities.