Courtesy Elkhart County Soil & Water Conservation District
Have you thought about installing a rain garden in your yard? If the only thing stopping you is the cost, consider looking to your local government for financial support. A growing number of cities and counties are encouraging residents to install rain gardens and offering guidance, resources and even reimbursements to offset the expense.
“Rain gardens are the most cost-effective way to reduce stormwater runoff,” explains Eric Kurtz, stormwater coordinator in Elkhart County, Ind. “Offering reimbursements is also a way to acknowledge the efforts residents are making to reduce their stormwater impact.”
Reimbursements also give homeowners who otherwise might not consider installing a rain garden the incentives they need to make the effort, according to Kurtz.
Take a look at several rain garden incentive programs around the country.
Elkhart County, Ind.
To encourage homeowners in northern Indiana to install rain gardens, the Greater Elkhart County Stormwater Partnership developed a program that combines education with financial support.
The county will reimburse up to $250 for rain-garden plants. To qualify, homeowners must attend a workshop that covers the basic principles of rain gardening. Two visits to the rain garden by a partnership staff member are also required—one during the planning phase and one post-installation—to ensure the work is completed appropriately.
Since the program was launched in 2010, seven homeowners have received rain-garden reimbursements.
Seattle Public Utilities launched the RainWise program to help reduce stormwater runoff. In addition to encouraging homeowners to disconnect downspouts, install cisterns and plant trees, the program also covers most of the cost of installing rain gardens (depending on the amount of stormwater-runoff reduction).
The rain-garden rebates, which were introduced in 2010, are currently available in limited areas of the city. To qualify, the work must be done by a licensed contractor and is subject to pre- and post-construction inspections by Seattle Public Utilities.
Pottawattamie County, Iowa
A partnership between the West Pottawattamie Soil and Water Conservation District, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Division of Soil provides residents of Pottawattamie County, Iowa, (including the communities of Carson, Council Bluffs and Loveland) with resources and support to install rain gardens.
An incentive program was introduced in 2007 that allows homeowners to request reimbursement for up to 50 percent of the cost of their rain gardens, up to $500.
Homeowners receive guidance on design and installation from the West Pottawattamie Soil and Water Conservation District throughout the project.
Since the program was introduced, a total of 20 rain gardens have been installed in the county.
The Rain Garden Program was created through a partnership between the Municipality of Anchorage and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide education and financial incentives for rain gardens in Anchorage, Alaska.
Since its inception in 2008, more than 55 rain gardens have been installed throughout the municipality, including rain gardens at schools, commercial buildings and residences. The Rain Garden Program has doubled in size each year.
The website offers resources, including a how-to guide for rain garden construction and maps for a driving tour of local demonstration gardens.
Through a cost-sharing program, residents can seek reimbursement for construction costs. The Municipality of Anchorage reimburses up to 50 percent of the cost, up to $750, for residential rain gardens.
Finding Rain-garden Help
If your city or county government doesn’t offer incentives to install rain gardens, don’t let that stop you.
“A lot of people are interested in installing rain gardens but don’t know where to start,” says Julie Buchanan, public relations specialist for the Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation and the Plant More Plants campaign. “There is a lot of information available through nonprofit organizations and local governments, especially public utilities that manage stormwater; those are good places to start.”