Rain Gardens – Keeping Water on the Land

A way to avoid run-off and filter pollutants

Written by Jessica Wilson, Education Manager, Watershed Protection Department

As Austin becomes increasingly urbanized, native landscapes are replaced with impervious surfaces that prevent rainwater from soaking into the ground. Stormwater quickly runs off these hard surfaces, picking up pollutants from the land and carrying them to our creeks. This rapidly flowing water also increases the chances of flooding and erosion.

The goal of a rain garden is to keep water on the land. Rain gardens are created in shallow depressions to capture stormwater and provide for natural infiltration into the soil. This provides water for the plants and helps maintain a constant flow of water in our streams through groundwater. They also help filter out pollutants including fertilizers, pesticides, oil, heavy metals and other chemicals that would otherwise reach our creeks through storm drains or drainage ditches. By reducing the quantity of water that runs off your property, rain gardens help lower the risk of flooding and erosion.

The City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department has an easy to follow fact sheet that details six easy steps to create a rain garden:

  1. Find the right location
  2. Test the soil
  3. Calculate the size and shape of your garden
  4. Construct the rain garden
  5. Pick and install plants
  6. Maintain your garden

You can register your rain garden online to inspire others and to help engineers understand how decentralized stormwater controls help Austin’s environment. If you are a parent or teacher the webpage has resources including signage that the department will provide to Austin ISD schools, lesson plans, and a list of grants that support community improvement projects like rain gardens.  More info: www.austintexas.gov/raingardens

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