Rain Garden Information

Rain Gardens

Prepared by Anna Fox

July 6, 2016

April showers bring May flowers and now the Village of Port Washington North will be installing a rain garden at Bay Walk Park. This project will continue our efforts to make the town greener in more ways than one. This will help alleviate some of the numerous harmful effects of stormwater pollution. Construction has just begun and will continue for roughly a couple more months.

Stormwater pollution is a significant and growing problem, especially in Port Washington. It is directly affecting our main watershed, the Manhasset Bay. The Manhasset Bay is influenced heavily by human action. When it rains or snows, excess water flows upon impervious surfaces (surfaces that don’t readily absorb much water, like concrete or asphalt), and goes straight into our storm drains. Along the way, this stormwater collects various pollutants., including greases and oils from automobiles, litter that is thrown onto the streets or into the storm drains, animal waste, runoff from municipal water treatment plants, excess fertilizer,  pesticides, or even lead. This water ultimately ends up in the Manhasset Bay.

Stormwater pollution takes a great toll on the Manhasset Bay. One major effect of stormwater pollution is that it increases the amount of algae that grows on the surface of the water. This may not seem like a big deal, but the algae both decreases the amount of oxygen that is available in the water as well as blocks sunlight from entering the water. In turn, the lives of wildlife that lives in the bay are being jeopardized. Additionally, the Manhasset Bay can no longer be used for multiple types of recreation, such as fishing, shellfishing, and swimming. The overall water quality is being decreased, and must come to an end.

Rain gardens help mitigate the harmful effects of stormwater pollution. A rain garden is a vegetated depression, or a garden with deep rooted plants. Rain gardens serve as a form of bioretention of water, meaning that the plants and soil in the garden retain the water, rather than letting it flow straight into the storm drains. When polluted stormwater enters the rain garden, the stormwater serves as irrigation to the garden, conserving municipal water sources. In turn, the plants, mulch, and soil in the rain garden filter pollutants out of the stormwater runoff. Pollutants are then broken down in the soil over time, rather than being dumped into the Manhasset Bay. The filtered stormwater then seeps into the ground, and ultimately goes into recharging our local aquifer. Rain gardens lead to improved water quality as well as alleviate drainage and flooding problems that could occur as a result of an excess of stormwater. Compared to a patch of lawn, a rain garden absorbs roughly thirty percent more water.

What makes a rain garden unique? The plants in the rain garden are accustomed to withstand periodic flooding. The deepest part of the rain garden is in the center, and is less deep around the edges. This is the area that collects the most water. Accordingly, the plants that are in the center of the rain garden are those that most readily absorb water and have the deepest roots. Likewise, the plants on the outer edges of the rain garden have shorter roots and do not absorb as much water.

In addition to providing a valuable service, the rain garden will be filled with a selection of beautiful local flora. This way, the rain garden also serves as a natural habitat for birds, butterflies, and even beneficial insects. After a couple of years, rain gardens require very little maintenance. The water that enters a rain garden is filtered through in no more that twenty-four hours. This means that the rain garden will not form a pond. Since there is no standing water for a long period of time, rain gardens do not create a home for mosquitos either.

The rain garden at Bay Walk Park will be approximately 800 square feet in a triangular shape. We are excited about this addition to our waterfront, making Port Washington a cleaner and more beautiful place to live.


What Can You Do to Help?

  • Wash your car on your lawn instead of in your driveway. The soil on the lawn will absorb and neutralize some of the grease and dirt from the car. If you were to wash your car in your driveway, the impervious surface would lead the grease straight down the storm drains.

  • Don’t litter (especially not down the storm drains).

  • Keep your car well maintained to prevent oil leaks.

  • If you must use pesticides or fertilizer, follow the instructions on the packaging directly to avoid using too much. Extra pesticides and fertilizers will flow into our storm drains and eventually into our water.

  • Mow your lawn less often. This decreases the likelihood of pests, reduces the need for watering, and decreases the amount of weed that will grow.

  • Sweep your sidewalks and drive instead of hosing it down.

  • Don’t overwater your lawn or plants to minimize water use and runoff.

  • Clean up pet waste to prevent harmful bacteria from entering our waters.

  • Keep your septic system well maintained to prevent leaks.

  • Walk, bike, or carpool when possible to lessen the amount of grease entering our storm drains.

  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle!

  • Don’t smoke. If you are a smoker, use the proper receptacles and ashtrays to dispose of your cigarettes/cigars.

  • Try not to apply chemicals/fertilizers/pesticides before a rainstorm.

  • Minimize the amount of ice-melt used during a snowstorm. If possible, use an environmentally-friendly ice-melt.

  • Discard of hazardous materials properly. If spilled, do not hose into the streets.

  • If boating, don’t dump sewage overboard. This introduces harmful bacteria to our waters.

  • Try to buy products with less packaging to reduce the amount of garbage acquired. Buy in bulk.

  • Don’t waste water. Don’t leave the faucet on while you are brushing your teeth, and take shorter showers.

  • Don’t drain pools or spas into the streets. Check with your municipal government on how they should be drained.

Rain Garden Class

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