The London Environmental Network is offering to reimburse up to $1,000 to those in London, Ont. who install rain gardens on their property.
A rain garden is a landscape feature that is both aesthetically pleasing and good for the environment. The bowl-like structures are dug into lawns to collect rain and melted snow that runs off grass, roofs and driveways in urban areas.
By acting as sponges, rain gardens absorb natural water that can be used to grow perennials and water-tolerant plants.
"Rain gardens have numerous benefits," said Nicole Karsch, Greener Homes London program coordinator with the London Environment Network.
"One really important one is that they filter out sediment and other pollutants like animal waste or even automotive chemicals, because they capture the very first flush of rain and snow melt which contain the highest concentrations of pollutants," she said.
When built near a home or structure, a rain garden can help divert water from flowing into a sewer and prevent basement flooding issues.
"There's also the potential of habitat creation," said Karsch. "Native plants, for example, support a variety of birds, butterflies and beneficial insects. And then there's also the potential for water conservation, because rain gardens hold water, and then this water slowly goes into the ground. This actually reduces and oftentimes completely eliminates the need to ever water a rain garden once they're installed."
When communities expand, they can often completely replace surrounding forest and agricultural land with hard concrete surfaces. This increases the potential for flooding events that can further carry pollutants from the streets and parking lots into local streams and lakes.
"Having rain gardens can really decrease the potential for that," said Karsch.
Creating a rain garden requires a soil infiltration test and a survey of utility lines, ideally in a flat location at least ten feet away from a structure foundation. Once the area has been deemed safe, the area can be excavated into an appropriate size.
To help offset the costs of this process, the London Environmental Network is offering a reimbursement to 15 eligible London residents for expenses related to a rain garden installation. The application is open until May 9 and can be found on the LEN website.
More rain gardens starting to pop up in London
Karsch said that to her knowledge, there are only a small number of rain gardens so far in the London area.
According to Shawna Chambers, division manager of stormwater for the City of London, they are becoming more popular.
"The city has been looking at rain gardens essentially since the province informed cities to start looking at them in 2015," said Chambers.
Chambers said that rain gardens are starting to pop up more in London's neighbourhoods and road projects, thanks to a number of pilot projects throughout 2017 and 2019.
"Basically we look at every city road project to see if we can fit ideas in, in a practical sense. So they're a tool in the toolbox to improve our stormwater management," said Chambers.
Chambers added that anyone interested in seeing a rain garden can view pilot projects on Waterloo Street south of Horton Street, and at the Bostwick Community Centre.