Let it rain in Fort Wayne

With severe wet weather responsible for the release of hundreds of billions of gallons of untreated wastewater and stormwater each year ...

With severe wet weather responsible for the release of hundreds of billions of gallons of untreated wastewater and stormwater each year, it’s no wonder that more and more communities are turning to ‘green’ solutions to help mitigate the problem.

Cities and towns across the nation are making an effort to control and treat stormwater runoff -- and beautify their surroundings -- by implementing solutions inspired by Mother Nature. Strategies such as bioswales, buffer cells, increased park and recreation space, and raingardens increase the opportunity for stormwater to reenter the soil, allowing it to be absorbed and filtered (i.e., treated) instead of running directly into local waterbodies, depositing toxins picked up along the way.

In most cases, these projects are undertaken by the local stormwater utility, watershed coalition, or pollution control department, with limited effort on the part of the public. The city of Fort Wayne, IN, wants to change that.

The City Utilities Department is incentivizing homeowners to roll up their sleeves and help control stormwater runoff by installing and maintaining raingardens on their properties. The department is offering 1,000 homeowners plants — or up to $175 to purchase plants — if they’re willing to put in a raingarden and maintain it for at least three years.

Don’t know how to create a raingarden? No problem. The city plans to implement about 20 public raingardens, which will not only filter rainwater before it enters the water table but will also serve as models to green-minded homeowners.

And Fort Wayne has already had some practice. The city recently bought and removed eleven homes that were prone to flooding and turned the site into a raingarden. After a number of floods over the years, several homeowners voluntarily approached the city asking to be bought out. Using Stormwater Bond money, the city purchased the homes and the Westbrook Flood Control Plan emerged. Recent heavy rains demonstrated that the $237,000 project was worth every penny.

The city’s new cash-or-plants raingarden project aims to create 1,000 residential raingardens and is expected to cost about $240,000. Homeowners must complete an application and attend a workshop in order to participate. If you’re interested in finding out more about the program, check out http://catchingrainfw.org or call the City Utilities Department at (260) 427-1381.

Angela Godwin
Editor, Urban Water Management

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