What is A Rain Garden?

When it rains in Northwest Arkansas, water falls on both impervious surfaces, such as roofs, parking lots and roads and pervious surfaces, such as forests and grasslands. Due to the growing urbanization of our area, the impervious surfaces are increasing, creating stormwater runoff problems in our communities and affecting our watershed. Stormwater runoff is the number one threat to our nation’s waterways (U.S. E.P.A.).

We receive on average, 48 inches of rain per year! Over a 1,200 square foot roof, 35,904 gallons of water will be generated, virtually all becoming stormwater runoff. We are lucky to have such a fair amount of rain, even if it does come in deluge and then disappear for weeks on end…(sigh). As mentioned before, these impervious surfaces do not allow rain water to soak into the ground, which in turn, can cause big problems such as flash flooding, streambank erosion and a host of other issues related to waterways.

How can we make a difference?

One solution is to build a rain garden to harvest our rain. Rain gardens, as the name implies, are specialized landscape features that capture and filter stormwater. They are easy to build, maintain, and provide numerous benefits to our environment, community and economy.

Benton County Road Department Rain Garden

Why Do We Plant Them?

Rain gardens capture stormwater over a short period of time (1-2 days) and allow water to soak into the ground, where it is needed most. The reduced rainfall entering local waterways can have a positive impact on our local streams, rivers and lakes. Native plants perform an ecological service by “scrubbing” pollutants in stormwater. Microorganisms in the soils also help to break down pollutants and work with plant roots to do so. Rain gardens establish quickly and go right to work, making them a viable option to treat and manage stormwater.

Springdale Airport Rain Garden

How Do I Plant a Rain Garden?

Typically, a rain garden is 4-8” deep and can range in size from 25 square feet to 500 square feet. A berm is used to create “bowl” in the landscape which helps water slow down and soak into the ground. If you’re worried about mosquitoes, they need standing water for a longer period to gestate. Native plants do great in rain gardens, as they are adapted to the weather patterns of our region and some can handle inundation for short periods of time.

To find step by step instructions to build a rain garden, visit: http://www.irwp.org/conservation-and-restoration/rain-gardens/

NW Arkansas Community College Rain Garden

More information is becoming readily available about rain gardens. The Illinois River Watershed Partnership and the Beaver Water District each received a grant funded through the U.S. EPA and Arkansas Natural Resources Commission to install sixty rain gardens in two watersheds, and will be providing a Rain Garden Academy in the Spring and Fall throughout the project timeline.

The next Rain Garden Academy, hosted by the Illinois River Watershed Partnership, will take place Wednesday, Oct. 2 at the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Ark. The academy will feature a “how-to” lecture series, a native plant tour of Crystal Bridges and Compton Gardens, and a luncheon for $25 per person. The workshop is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

To find out more and register your seat today, visit: www.irwp.org

Wilson Park Rain Garden, Fayetteville, AR

Remember, any size rain garden can make a difference and you can have a positive impact on our watershed!


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Additional Resources:

Native Plants for Rain Gardens