Got a green thumb? Like do-it-yourself projects? These time-tested stormwater features will beautify your yard and fight pollution at the same time.
Native plants can provide an attractive, cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional lawns and landscapes. In addition to providing valuable food and habitat for native butterflies, birds and other wildlife, native plants have deep roots that soak up stormwater, break up compacted soil and help infiltrate runoff into the ground.
Permeable pavers allow stormwater to soak into the ground by running down into the gaps between pavers. The pavers are installed over one or more base layers of stone and/or sand. In addition to providing a stable base for the pavers, these base layers provide drainage capacity and allow runoff to infiltrate the ground beneath.
Rainbarrels capture stormwater runoff from rooftops and store it so that it can be reused for irrigating plants during dry spells. In addition to reducing the amount of potable water used for watering plants, rainbarrels also help add capacity to city stormsewer systems by capturing part of the first flush of a rain event.
Raingardens are bowl-shaped (depressed) gardens with sandy soils and deep-rooted native plants. They act like filters on the landscape, capturing stormwater runoff and letting it soak into the ground, where the soils naturally filter out harmful pollutants.
Trees help protect water quality by capturing, storing and using rainfall. This reduces the amount of runoff that carries pollution off of the landscape and into nearby rivers and lakes. A healthy and robust tree canopy is especially important in an urban environment.
The projects and features on this web page are all examples of stormwater best management practices (BMPs) — a technical term for landscape features that capture, clean and absorb stormwater runoff. In urban areas, stormwater BMPs are valuable not only because they help protect water quality, but also because they provide habitat and create green space that supports healthy lifestyles and public enjoyment.
Another way to think of stormwater BMPs is as sustainable drainage. This video lays out the basic concept of sustainable drainage and highlights its many benefits:
Guidebooks for Homeowners
Slow it. Spread it. Sink it! A Homeowner’s Guide to Greening Stormwater Runoff (PDF, 7.1 MB, 48 pages) Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (California) This photo-filled guidebook details a wide range of stormwater control measures that homeowners can implement on their own properties. Topics include stormwater best management practices, potential problems, site constraints and example projects.
A Homeowner’s Guide to Stormwater Management (PDF, 1.7 MB, 32 pages) Philadelphia Water Department (Pennsylvania) In addition to raingardens and other home stormwater control measures, this guidebook includes helpful tips on vehicle maintenance and lawn care. It also covers some topics specific to northern climates, such as winter deicing practices.
The Homeowner’s Guide to Stormwater (PDF, 3.5 MB, 28 pages) Lancaster County Conservation District (Pennsylvania) In addition to covering all the basics, this handy guidebook features templates to help you develop a stormwater management plan for your property.