Member Spotlight: Des Moines Clean Water Program

The City of Des Moines Stormwater Best Management Practices Rebate Program, which started in 2017, provides an incentive for private property owners to install stormwater best management practices on their property. The City reimburses property owners 50% of the total cost of their project with a reimbursement limit of $2,000. The program is run by the Clean Water Program (CWP) staff from the City’s Public Works Department. 

Recently, the CWP staff devised a new approach for promoting the program and providing more in-depth customer service to residents interested in the rebate. 

Promoting the rebate program has been focused on engagement and education of residents to let them know about its existence. CWP staff have been tasked with revising the program’s message and finding more ways to speak directly to residents. The following are a few examples of how this has been accomplished: 

  • – CWP staff have been attending Neighborhood Association Meetings throughout the city to speak to the groups about the rebate and provide examples on what they can do on their property. Most Neighborhood Associations have an active social media presence that provides a targeted way to get the message to residents. 
  • – Partnerships with local groups such as Invest DSM have helped promote the rebate to residents they work with. They offer a platform to reach residents who are interested in improving their property and community but may not have heard of our Best Management Practices Program.
  • – Approximately 500 postcards have been sent to residents in the Beaverdale Neighborhood promoting the use of rain gardens and offering site visits to assess their properties. Over 60 responses from residents have been received indicating a larger interest than anticipated for stormwater management. 
  • – Social media videos and campaigns have been created to promote popular residential best practices like Soil Quality Restoration and Rain Gardens by showing examples of typical projects and their benefits. These benefits have been sent out and well-received on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and NextDoor.

One of the most successful ways to increase utilization of the program has been through in-person site visits with residents. Most applications received are for smaller requests that only use a portion of the $2,000 allotted to each resident. Every time there is a general inquiry, or a resident doesn’t request the full rebate amount, a site visit is offered to discuss additional practices that could work on their property. This year-to-date CWP staff have performed over 150 individual site visits with residents to speak about the rebate program. 

During these site visits, CWP staff complete a walkthrough of the property assessing possible stormwater BMP practice types and locations. The intention is to educate residents and provide them with a “whole site approach” to manage as much of the stormwater that falls on their property as possible. At many of these visits, the homeowner ends up pursuing practices they were previously unaware of after learning more about them. 

As a follow-up to the site visit, CWP staff send the interested homeowner a detailed email breaking down the practices discussed including the practice sizing, informational links describing the practices in better detail, and contractor lists for who can construct the practices. An additional meeting with their preferred contractor is offered to brainstorm additional ideas and ensure what is proposed can be covered by the rebate. 

Once the homeowner has selected the practice(s) they are moving forward with, CWP staff visit during construction and provide guidance to contractors as needed. A final site visit is performed once the practice is installed to ensure it has been constructed to standards and to finalize the rebate. 

Currently, CWP staff are working with the City’s Communications Department to develop yard signs for homeowners who participated in the rebate. The signs will include a QR code to link to the rebate website and promote the practice to their neighbors. 

While the rebate program continues to grow, it is not a perfect system. CWP staff admit to experiencing growing pains from trying to keep up with the demand. However, the program is trending in the right direction with more interest and more projects approved than ever before. Contact the CWP staff with any questions about the rebate program and feedback on what other communities are doing and any successes/failures they may have experienced along the way are appreciated!