Friday, June 15, 2012

Rain Gardens and Storm Water Management in Madison, WI

A Rain Garden along a City of Madison Street takes shape
Rain Gardens are taking hold in Madison, WI. These are often installed by homeowners as a means to prevent rain water from running-off directly into the storm sewers.  The one pictured to the right was part of partnership between the City of Madison and the property owner.  The homeowner and City shared the cost of installation. This one went in last year during major street renovations.  The matting in the foreground was just removed and fresh mulch added to the bottom.

The big brown rectangle in the back is the Rain Garden.  It acts as a small catch basin allowing a recharge of the groundwater.  Madison is surrounded by 4 Lakes and the ensuing rise in the water table means that springs will come back to life.  Rain Gardens also serve as a way to filter out chemicals and debris that would otherwise find their way into the aquifers and lakes. To date, over 498 Rain Gardens have been installed in the City of Madison.

Father and Son Plant their Rain Garden (Photo Courtesy Wisconsin DNR)
So where does the 'Garden' part fit-in? Well, you actually go the next step and put in plants that will flourish in the damp conditions while filtering-out the chemicals.  Some homeowners have opted to create their own Rain Gardens on a smaller scale.  There are so many options and the University of Wisconsin-Extension has put together a free 'How-to' guide. 

It is very easy to get one started.  First of all, kids like to dig in the dirt. Now, you can let the little tikes loose with their shovel and pails and make them part of the solution.  Ahem, some adult supervision is going to be required here.  Seriously, clean water is important today and for future generations.  Involve your kids in the process and let them spread the excitement to their friends when they return to school in the fall.  Fresh water is a critical resource for our nation and we want to ensure that it is available for future Americans.

On a grander scale steps have been taken to stem the flow of storm water run-off into Madison's Lake Wingra.  After years of community involvement with engineers, a storm water retention pond took shape.  Acting much like a Rain Garden, storm water is held and slowly released into the Lake via gravity.  Take a moment to explore the work.  I hope you are inspired to spread the word about Rain Gardens and maybe even build one yourself!

Use the Arrows at the bottom to move around, and highlight boxes to zoom-in on details.