A new way to conserve rainwater is being adopted all over Waterloo Region. Rain gardens are being put in to help runoff water from storms be collected to prevent flooding, create cleaner drinking water, and feed gardens.
“A rain garden is beautiful as any other garden, but there’s a difference underneath: you’ve dug out some of the soil underneath, maybe two to three feet down, and replaced it with porous materials that will hold water. So, when it rains, water can land in that kind of bowl that stores the water so that it doesn’t become runoff. That allows the water to gently filter down and restore our groundwater, and the plants on top can be beautiful,” explained Mary Jane Patterson, executive director of Reep Green Solutions. “When you do this, you’re helping to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff that pours down into our streets and directly untreated into our creeks and streams.”
Reep Green Solutions is a local environmental organization that has been helping people live more sustainably for more than 20 years. The charitable group provides coaching to anyone looking to install a rain garden at their home or business.
“This is about helping us all adapt to the way our climate is already changing to those more frequent and intense rainstorms – all the cities are doing their part when they work on stormwater management and helping to reduce the amount of runoff that goes into the streams and into people’s basements. So, reducing flood risk, that’s a really big part of adapting to climate change.”
Patterson has had a rain garden at her home for the past five years, and has seen the benefits it provides such as redirecting rainwater flows, keeping her lawn more healthy as well.
“We’re doing something that might be solving a problem in our own yard but we’re also really contributing to the whole community when we do this, to the health of the streams nearby, to the wildlife in those streams,” added Patterson.
Reep Green Solutions helped Kitchener resident Marion Kelterborn install a rain garden in the front of her lawn a few years ago.
“When I had this installed they put in some sand, and some gravel and then mulch, so it’s really material that really helps to soak the water, but if we got a really big rainstorm the idea is that it could fill up here and then it would come out this outlet,” said Kelterborn tiptoeing through her rain garden, enjoying the butterflies nestled on her flowers.
Kelterborn’s neighbourhood was one of two chosen to participate in Reep’s project to build rain gardens. She noted her neighbourhood was happy to be involved as most of them are avid gardeners. About 15 rain gardens were planted in her area, including at the church down the street.
“It seems as if it’s a win-win for the environment and win-win for the homeowner too. I think it beautifies my property, it helps with the environment, with cleaner water – we do want to do things more for the environment now and this is one thing homeowners can do. This is one way you can act locally for yourself and do your small part,” added Kelterborn.
Any plants work in the rain gardens, Kelterborn noted perennials do well and are very easy to maintain.