In 2010, the City started a pilot program called RainWise to incentivize landowners and residents throughout Ballard to disconnect their gutters from the storms system and instead infiltrate stormwater. “Rain gardens” is a way to beautifully integrate sustainability into your landscape while reducing the stress on our storm systems, improving water quality in our natural systems, and sustaining our aquifers. However, other great ways to reduce stormwater is through reducing impervious surfaces, installing cisterns (e.g., rain barrels), and other low impact forms of development. In 2012, the RainWise program will be expanding to NE Seattle residents as well, including Wedgwood, according to KOMO4.
Much of Wedgwood is located within the Thornton Creek watershed, which is only 1 of 4 streams in Seattle that supports salmon spawning grounds. Thornton Creek also has a history of flooding 35th Ave NE where it crosses between Meadowbrook Community Center and Nathan Hale High School, a problem that Seattle Public Utilities is working to correct.
As it stands, the RainWise program helps to incentivize landowners to install these low-impact features by helping to pay for the cost of installation. Its not clear whether or not these incentives/rebates will stay the same or not under the expanded program.
Roadside rain gardens, or natural drainage systems, have received a fair amount of bad press recently over a few that were installed in Ballard that didn’t function correctly (e.g., didn’t infiltrate as intended). This bad press however focuses on a single bad example and glosses over the massively successful Natural Drainage program that the City has and is continuing to pursue.
If you’re interested in seeing some beautiful photos of rain gardens throughout Puget Sound? The Stewardship Partners Picasa Web Album has several great projects showing before and after photos.