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What is “Rainscaping”?

“Rainscaping” is a concept promoting infiltration based stormwater management practices on a statewide basis. “Rainscapes” are stormwater practices that can be installed on both residential and commercial properties.

Such practices are identical to the practices found in the Iowa Stormwater Management Manual with one catch – we translate this [mundane] engineering manual into something us non-engineers can understand! 

Rainscapes look like regular landscapes at a glance. However, one major difference exists: rainscapes are designed to retain and infiltrate a known quantity of runoff generated from a certain area, such as a rooftop, driveway, parking lot, or street. Rainscapes prevent rain from becoming polluted stormwater runoff.

A new program in the Des Moines area called the “Rain Campaign” seeks to spread awareness of Rainscaping practices and provides information to homeowners on implementing practices on their own property.

Program Goals

The goal of Rainscaping Iowa is twofold:

  1. Build awareness and understanding for Rainscapes through education and outreach
  2. Support this effort with training and technical support

The concept is supported through partners:

  1. Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
  2. Agricultural and Land Stewardship (IDALS) Economic Development Authority (IEDA)
  3. Department of Transportation – Living Roadway Trust (IDOT)
  4. Iowa Stormwater Education Program (ISWEP)
  5. Polk Soil and Water Conservation District
Rainscaping

Rainscaping and Green Infrastructure Practices

Stormwater best management practices, or BMPs, can fall into one of two categories – the Basic Rainscape or the Engineered Rainscape, also known as “Green Infrastructure.” Rainscapes mirror traditional landscape, but their commonalities end with plants and mulch. A great deal of work below ground ensures that a 1.25″ rain infiltrates, or .78 gallons per square foot of area are managed by the practice.

Bioswale

Bioswales

Engineered Practice

Bioswales are installed as an alternative to storm sewers and consist of permeable soil, perforated subdrain, and earthen berms.

Bioretention Cell

Bioretention Cells

Engineered Practice

Bioretention cells are landscaped depressions that capture and infiltrate stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces.

Constructed Wetland

Constructed Wetlands

Engineered Practice

Wetlands decrease stormwater flow rates and volumes through absorption, evapotranspiration, and outlet restrictions.

Green Roof

Green Roofs and Living Walls

Engineered Practice

A green roof incorporates vegetation, soil or another growing medium, and a drainage layer over a waterproof membrane on a roof.

Permeable Pavement

Permeable Pavement Systems

Engineered Practice

Permeable or porous pavement allows water to infiltrate around and/or through the surface into engineered layers of rock below the pavement and then into surrounding soils.

Tree Boxes

Tree Boxes

Engineered Practice

Trees are mini-reservoirs for rain and reduce urban stormwater runoff at the source by intercepting and holding rain on leaves, branches and bark.

River Restoration

River Restoration

Engineered Practice

River restoration includes a variety of practices to restore the natural functions of a stream ecosystem, including floodplain functions.

Native Turf

Native Turf

Basic Practice

Native turf features a blend of low-growing native or warm season grasses that provide a lawn-like appearance with minimal maintenance, while enhancing soil quality.

Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater Harvesting

Basic Practice

Rainwater harvesting is the process of collecting rainwater and storing it for later use (e.g. watering your garden or lawn) using a barrel or cistern.

Rain Gardens

Rain Gardens

Basic Practice

A green roof incorporates vegetation, soil or another growing medium, and a drainage layer over a waterproof membrane on a roof.

Soil Quality Restoration

Soil Quality Restoration

Basic Practice

Permeable or porous pavement allows water to infiltrate around and/or through the surface into engineered layers of rock below the pavement and then into surrounding soils.

Native Landscaping

Native Landscaping

Basic Practice

Trees are mini-reservoirs for rain and reduce urban stormwater runoff at the source by intercepting and holding rain on leaves, branches and bark.

Order Rainscaping Yard Signs

ISWEP and Polk County SWCD have developed metal signs that can be placed near most green infrastructure practices to explain the purpose and design to the public. Designs are included for bioretention cells, bioswales, native landscaping, native turf, P-Free lawns, permeable pavement, prairie in progress, rain gardens, “Rainscaped”, rainwater harvesting, redirected downspouts, soil quality restoration, and stream buffers. Click here to download the order form.

Example “Native Landscaping” Sign