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Raingardens are gardens set in bowl-like depressions and filled with native flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees. They are designed to reduce the amount of stormwater that enters into our lakes, rivers and streams through the storm sewer system. In a residential setting, a raingarden might catch water from your roof and driveway before it runs into the streets and storm sewers. Many of the raingardens in Saint Paul’s parks are much larger in scale and collect rainwater directly from the storm sewers.
What does it matter if stormwater runs into our lakes and rivers? As it falls on our lawns, roofs, driveways and streets, rainwater picks up pollutants like motor oil, nutrients from fertilizer, and sediment. None of these are good for our lakes and rivers. Excess nutrients in our lakes leads to an increase in the amount of algae in them. When this happens, it is called an algal bloom. The algae use up a lot of oxygen, leaving less and less for the fish, eventually killing them off entirely. No fish in the water means no waterfowl and other wildlife in and around the lake.
Before humans extensively developed this land, much of the rainwater fell to the ground and was absorbed by the soil and plants. Now that much of the landcover in Saint Paul is impervious to water, lakes and rivers are overloaded with stormwater during rain events. This causes problems for the vegetation growing along the shoreline, because they have to deal with constantly fluctuating water levels. It also means that less water makes it into the water table.
Want to learn more about the raingardens in
your community? Want to build a raingarden yourself? Check out the
Capitol Region Watershed District recently installed several public raingardens in the Lake Como area and can help you install one in your own yard.
University of Wisconsin Extension Services has many excellent publications related to water quality, including a step-by-step guide to how to build your own raingarden.
Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District has a cost-share program to assist with projects that improve the water quality of the District.
Ramsey Conservation District’s NATURE Program offers free technical assistance in addition to raingarden cost-sharing.
How does the City of Saint Paul build a raingarden? Check out this slideshow about the construction of the Phalen Raingarden: