A rain garden guide for homeowners

By: Michelle West, P.E.

Michelle is a senior water resources engineer with more than 18 years of professional experience. With a background in both engineering and natural resources, she is passionate about using her skills to restore the natural world while improving the human experience.

Before we get started,  a few questions.

  • Have you joined the rain garden craze yet? 
  • Have you been inspired by an article, your neighbor’s rain garden, or our Rain Garden Wednesdays social media posts?
  • Want to do your part to improve your local water quality and wildlife habitat?

It’s easier than you think!

The two illustrations above, right show how “breaking the impervious chain” slows, cleans and reduces the stormwater leaving a site.

The bottom photo shows Michelle leading a rain garden workshop at Walton’s Cove in Hingham, MA.

What is a Rain Garden?

Rain gardens are actually very simple.  They are just shallow depressions – too shallow to even call a hole! – with plants.  But, rain gardens are not just isolated depressions placed randomly out in a yard.  They are specifically sized and placed to absorb stormwater runoff, the water that flows from your built impervious surfaces such as rooftops, driveways, roads, parking lots, and even compacted lawn areas when it rains.  And that’s it!  Well, not quite, since rain gardens do take a bit of planning and physical labor, which we will get to in a bit.

 

 

   Why a Rain Garden?

What’s so bad about stormwater runoff?  Why all the fuss?  It’s just rainwater straight from the sky – isn’t that natural? 

Unfortunately, no.  All of those impervious surfaces that we built for our shelter and transportation prevent the clean rainwater from soaking into the ground like it did before we developed the land.  Dirt, fertilizer, soaps, oils, metals, and even animal poop build upon these hard surfaces and get carried away with the stormwater.  In addition to creating water pollution, when your runoff joins up with your neighborhood’s runoff, it can cause flooding and erosion, damage infrastructure, degrade aquatic ecosystems, and close shellfishing areas and beaches.  While runoff from just your home or business may not cause much of a problem, the cumulative impact from everyone’s home and business really does.

Rain gardens are one beautiful way to break the impervious chainof roof to downspout to driveway to road to stream, pond, or bay.  They use soils and plants to filter pollutants and help water soak in rather than runoff.  Please remember that rain gardens are NOT ponds or wetlands – they should drain in less than 24 hours after a rainfall. 

Download the file below to create one at your house!

 

Cross-section of a typical rain garden:

 

Click to Download: How to Build a Rain Garden

 

  

Ben Wollman

Environmental Scientist

Ben Wollman has joined our Sandwich office as an Environmental Scientist focused on wetlands and ecology. Ben earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Natural and Environmental Systems from Cornell University and is a Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner. He comes to HW with 12+ years of professional experience working in professional consulting, design, and research and ecological restoration oversight. He has worked in PA, NY, and most recently MA. Ben will be working with our ecologists and other technical staff to support our wetlands-wildlife assessments and permitting projects.

Ben loves to spend time outside, enjoying activities like hiking, kayaking, birding, swimming, camping, snowboarding, hunting, and fishing. A naturalist by nature, and inspired by environmental icons like Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and E.O. Wilson, Ben is passionate about maintaining and facilitating healthy individual and societal connections to the ecosystems that sustain us all. Ben and his wife have been living on the Cape since 2015 with their incredibly cute and smart pup (Rowan – he’s 14 years old and going strong)! Welcome, Ben!

 

steve stanish, p.e., CFM, ENV SP

Project Engineer

Steve Stanish has joined our Boston office as a project engineer with a background in both the public and private sectors. Steve received his Master of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois -Chicago and his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Purdue University. He joins HW with 11+ years of experience specializing in stormwater management design and is a certified engineer in several states, a certified flood plain manager, and an Envision Sustainability Professional in MA. He also has experience in transportation engineering and design.

In his spare time, he is currently renovating his home which he has described as HGTV outtakes! Steve also is an avid ultimate frisbee player, homebrewer, and woodworker. When not traveling for frisbee tournaments on the weekends, he is typically in Boston working on brewing new beers or building furniture for his home.

 

Lori Kennedy, p.e., ENV SP

Senior Project Manager

Lori Kennedy is a water resource engineer and project manager with a diverse background in municipal engineering, policy, stormwater management, integrated planning, modeling, and community engagement.  We are pleased to welcome her to our growing Boston office!  Lori earned her Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of California at Davis, and her Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Environmental Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA. Among other roles, Lori will be supporting our MS4 clients in meeting all aspects of their MS4 permit requirements. Lori grew up in Vermont and enjoys hiking, gardening, and exploring nature with her two children.

 

Saipan, CNMI

Meet: Josephine Ibanez

Brian A. Laverriere, Project Designer

Josephine is an environmental scientist specializing in water resource management, water quality monitoring, and site remediation.  Jo’s passions include exploring new areas (both geographically and scientifically), helping communities understand their local water quality challenges, and developing water resource management strategies.

Last month, Jo and I had the opportunity to travel to Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Our team mapped drainage infrastructure, assessed sources of pollution, and identified key opportunities for restoration within the Achugao, Garapan, and Lao Lao Bay Watersheds. 

The trip was awesome for so many reasons.  Jo reminded me every day that what we do is significant – but who we work with is equally as important– and most important of all is the health, safety, and welfare of people. This was my first time working closely with Jo; hearing her perspective reminded me of how critical our development decisions are in 2020 and that our purpose in Saipan is larger than ourselves.

We inventoried age-old infrastructure from WWII, observed active construction today, and saw evidence of our future demand on the land.  Jo made me think: what will happen to these natural waterways we’re mapping?  Will they vanish inside of a pipe?  Or can we integrate these natural resources and sustain the natural identity of Saipan?  While abroad, we talked with residents who told stories from decade ago, collaborated with consultants who shared our same concerns, and met with federal agencies to ensure our decision-making process fit the priorities of the people and the place.

Project Summary:

All three watersheds are impaired, exceeding one or more CNMI water quality standards.  Five HW’ers traveled to Saipan to assess each watershed and to identify solutions for land-based sources of pollution.  Our project team consists of environmental scientists, civil engineers, planners, and landscape architects.  Sponsored by NOAA and the CNMI Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, we worked closely with Koa Consulting LLC, Sea Change Consulting, and The Nature Conservancy to engage local agencies and organizations. We collected field data and mapped drainage infrastructure linking flow-patterns with key opportunities to improve water quality.  Our field teams and workshop facilitators gathered hundreds of data points; produced dozens of restoration concepts; and identified watershed management priorities, challenges, and visions.

Over the coming months, we will draft watershed management plans to integrate different stakeholder’s priorities (e.g., on-going capital improvements, restoration efforts, road upgrades) to balance economic growth with environmental integrity.  Based upon our field assessment, the community engagement process, and stakeholder listening sessions, we will prioritize potential solutions to mitigate future development, restore degraded landscapes, and manage contributing drainage areas.  As a result of this work, we hope federal and local agencies can implement these watershed solutions to one-day meet the CNMI water quality standards.

HW Project Team:

Brian A. Laverriere, Project Designer
Josephine Ibanez, Environmental Scientist
Eliza Hoffman, Staff Engineer
Brian Kuchar, P.E., RLA, Principal Landscape Architect
Anne Kitchell, Senior Watershed Planner

Project Partners:

The Nature Conservancy-Micronesia
-Berna Gorong 
Sea Change Consulting
-Meghan Gombos
KOA Consulting LLC
-Becky Skeele & Rob Jordan
Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality
-James Benavente

NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program
-Robbie Greene


Read about this project in the Saipan Tribune

 

Nicole spink colborn

Preparedness Planner

Nicole Spink Colborn has joined our training team as a Preparedness Planner. Nicole earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental and Occupational Management from Methodist University in North Carolina. She is pursuing a Master of Public Administration, Disaster Management degree from Liberty University in Virginia. 

Nicole comes to HW with five years professional experience from DC Water and Sewer Authority, Washington, D.C. Her experience at the Office of Emergency Management will help our clients as we facilitate events and projects for DC Water and The US EPA. Nicole will be supporting our Emergency Preparedness team with facilitating workshops across the country and developing emergency response and preparedness materials.

Nicole enjoys spending time hiking with her Golden Retriever and Australian Shepherd. You can find her anywhere outside especially in the mountains or at the beach. Welcome to HW Nicole!

 

Sarah bartlett

Staff Scientist

Sarah Bartlett has joined our planning team as a Staff Scientist. Sarah earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Science from Saint Anselm College. Her experience includes water quality work with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services conducting inspections, collecting samples, and database management. Sarah has always wanted to work and live on Cape Cod. She can’t wait to hit the beach with her dog and a good book – We are thrilled to welcome her to the team!

Sarah can be reached in our Sandwich office.

sarah bartlett sandwich

 

mike demanche

Environmental Scientist

In 2019, Amanda Converse at Ebb and Flow interviewed  Mike Demanche who started here as an intern, and joined us full-time last year after graduating from Brown University. Mike enjoys the varied tasks of an environmental scientist, especially when it gets him outdoors. An avid hiker his experience on the Appalachian Trail led him to discover his strong interest in environmental science.

“HW projects range in scale from local to national. On any given day I can be involved in projects which stay within the Town of Sandwich or reach out to federal agencies on national issues. Because HW is involved in such a variety of work, we’re able to approach problems in house in a well-rounded fashion. We have scientists, planners, engineers all working in the same space and bringing their perspective to the tasks at hand. These different foci aren’t relegated to specific departments, so most teams within the company involve colleagues with varied backgrounds.”

-Mike Demanche

Mike can be reached in the Sandwich office.

 

Fabiola  Alikpokou

MCRP, Staff Planner

Fabiola Alikpokou has joined our planning team as a Staff Planner. Fabiola has a Master’s Degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of NE-Lincoln. She earned two Bachelor of Science degrees in political science and international studies, as well as a certificate in public management from the University of NE-Omaha. Fabiola has experience in both the public and private sectors gathering research and providing analysis for comprehensive plans, corridor studies, and bicycle and pedestrian master plans. Her plate is already full here at HW with assignments related to the Sudbury Master Plan Update, the Canton Master Plan Update, and housing diversity work in Exeter, NH. Fabiola can be reached in our Providence office.

 

March 6-7, 2019

UMass Amherst, MA

Sustaining the Living Landscape

We look forward to presenting at the Ecological Landscape Alliance (ELA) Conference  on March 6th. Several staff members will be presenting in the Form, Function, and Flow: Managing Stormwater Naturally category.

Brian Kuchar, RLA, P.E., Jennifer Relstab, P.E. and Michelle West, P.E. will present The Wet and Wild World of Constructed Wetlands March 6th at 2:00pm. Please join them to find out why these multi-faceted yet underutilized beauties (constructed wetlands) have become our favorite green infrastructure practice!

 

Workshop Description:

This presentation will focus on three main topics:  an overview of constructed stormwater wetlands including their many benefits and when to use them, New England case studies constructed over the past five years, and lessons learned during the various phases of those projects.  We will also have time for an open discussion with our panel to dig deeper into specific topics or projects. Learn more at the ELA site.

constructed wetland in milford with sign