Shared Rain Garden Alleviates Flooding for Two Families
On a quiet tree-lined street in Rogers Park, two neighboring households have devised an elegant way to manage stormwater – they built a shared front yard rain garden watered by its own “river.”
Rob Hansen and Kristi Piccolo live next door to Richard and Ami Herzon. After responding to the CNT’s flood reduction survey and visiting with a CNT auditor, both families decided to reduce the threat of flooding by directing roof runoff water away from their single family homes. They also wanted to keep their yards free of standing water.
Over the course of two weekends earlier this summer, Rob and Kristi and Richard and Ami worked together to curtail neighborhood flooding and keep polluted water out of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. As a bonus, they now have a lushly decorated yard.
The four installed a shared rain garden that overlaps their two properties. The 90-square-foot rain garden is fed by what the couples jokingly call a river. It is a lined channel between their two homes that collects roof runoff from the buildings’ disconnected gutter downspouts and delivers it to the garden.
Heart-shaped, bordered with stone and lush with greenery and flowers, the rain garden looks like decorative landscaping. But it is also entirely functional.
“It absorbs water really well,” Ami said. “We have not seen any pooling.”
Rain gardens are a low tech, inexpensive way to manage stormwater. Find a suitable spot, often a place where water naturally gathers, dig a shallow depression in the earth and plant shrubs and grasses. Water that otherwise would end up heading to a sewage treatment plant – or worse, a river, lake or someone’s basement – instead percolates into the earth, recharging groundwater supplies. Some people install rain gardens to divert water away from their home’s basement. Others install them mainly for environmental reasons. Excess stormwater can overwhelm the Chicago region’s sewage system, leading to the discharge of untreated wastewater into the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.
“We have the good fortune to live next to abundant fresh water,” Rob said. “There is no reason every piece of land in the city couldn’t manage its water to some degree.”
The two couples’ ingenuity has not gone unnoticed. They said that neighbors often comment about the rain garden. “It is always positive,” Richard said. “Always.”
If you have problems with flooding or sewer backups – or simply want to help preserve the environment – please take the first steps to seeking assistance from CNT by looking at our Wetrofit and Sustainable Backyards programs and completing our flooding survey. Wetrofit uses simple techniques such as disconnecting downspouts and installing rain barrels to resolve stormwater problems. Sustainable Backyards offers rebates of 50 percent on local purchases of trees (up to $100 rebate), native plants (up to $60 rebate), compost bins (up to $50 rebate), and rain barrels (up to $40 rebate).
For more information, contact Ryan Wilson at CNT (773) 328-7014 or email email@example.com.