New Program Offers Free Rain Gardens and Cisterns

Pearl Jam Guitarist Stone Gossard and Local Residents Promote Win-Win Solution to Protect Puget Sound, Reduce Flooding, and Improve Health

SEATTLE – With Spring upon us, a new ad campaign on radios and buses around King County calls on people to become “Rain Changers” by creating rain gardens at their homes and businesses. The best part? The City of Seattle and King County will pick up the bill for eligible properties.

“Rain gardens and cisterns can prevent flooding on your property, keep your basement dry, and protect Puget Sound from pollution,” said Aaron Clark, director of strategic partnerships at Stewardship Partners, which is running the Rain Changers campaign. “With public dollars available, this is a no brainer.”

Every time it rains, stormwater carries pollution from our roofs, driveways and sidewalks into local creeks, and ultimately into Puget Sound. Recent research, for example, found tire dust washed into local streams and the Sound killed 40 to 90 percent of returning coho salmon before they spawn.

One residential rain garden can divert 70-100 percent of the rainwater from a property. If 12,000 homeowners build rain gardens, 160 million gallons of polluted stormwater would be treated, helping to protect the Sound. Rain gardens also keep water out of basements, keeping them dry and preventing unhealthy mold.

Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard, who is currently planning his second rain garden, is lending star power to the campaign. In one radio ad he notes, “if you want to keep your basement dry and the Sound clean, cisterns and rain gardens are a beautiful way to help.”

The campaign introduces the Orca, the Salmon, and the Octopus, local residents of Puget Sound who support the use of cisterns and rain gardens to protect their homes. One such project is at Duwamish Co-Housing, where new cisterns are helping to prevent flooding and keep polluted stormwater out of the Duwamish River.

“We were so fortunate to receive three 265-gallon cisterns through a grant from King County,” said Ruth Anne, a neighborhood champion who lives at Duwamish Co-Housing. “So many people could benefit from these cisterns and rain gardens – and help Puget Sound – if only they knew the money was there to pay for them.”

Funding for rain gardens comes from two sources, depending on the property location. RainWise, operated by Seattle Public Utilities and King County Wastewater Treatment Division, offers rebates for projects in eligible drainage basins; the average rebate is $4,200. For properties that are not eligible for RainWise rebates, there are Green Stormwater Infrastructure Mini Grants through Stewardship Partners of up to $1,500 or $4,500 for income-limited people and nonprofits.

Rain gardens make financial sense, as they keep stormwater out of the sewers and reduce infrastructure costs. For example, Seattle Public Utilities estimated that natural drainage systems – like rain gardens – would cost $410,000 per block, compared to $720,000 for traditional infrastructure – a savings of more than 40 percent. To check your eligibility and learn more about the Rain Changers program, visit www.rainchangers.org.

About Stewardship Partners

Stewardship Partners is a nonprofit organization that creates people-based solutions to engage Puget Sound communities as caretakers of land and water. Stewardship Partners was founded over 20 years ago, as Puget Sound was in a steep ecological decline. The organization focuses on the role of private landowners—people with a deep connection to the land and a strong motivation to act as responsible stewards of the ecosystem. Starting with a single farmer in the Snoqualmie River Valley, the organization has grown into a national model for developing effective, people-based solutions and engaging communities as caretakers of the land and water. Its programs include Snoqualmie Stewardship (including Adopt-a-Buffer), Salmon-Safe, and Green Infrastructure (including City Habitats, 12,000 Rain Gardens, Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea and Sound Impacts). More at https://www.stewardshippartners.org/.

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