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    When it Rains it Blooms!

     The City of Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department has planted their second rain garden, "River of Dreams". ESD used the remnants of an old tank site to create a beautiful 75’ by 75’ rain garden to manage 1.5 acres of the plant’s storm water. The rain garden is composed of 29 different Michigan native species and has been engineered to handle the storm water from the surrounding pavement and the rooftop of the nearby storage building. Grand Rapids’ typical rain event is ½ inch of rain water. Our average rainfall of 37 inches means we divert 1.5 million gallons of untreated storm water to our rain garden, which otherwise would have gone to the Grand River.
    The newly planted garden was put to the test with our 50 year storm event on July 3, 2008, just one week after the first planting. The Wastewater Treatment Plant received 4.73 inches of rain in 1 hour and 13 minutes! That calculates to over 189,000 gallons of storm water that went to the rain garden in just over an hour. The standing water only lasted a day or two and our hearty native plants all survived. Nonetheless, there was a “No Swimming” sign in case anyone didn’t know it was still a garden.

    Environmental Services used the help of City Engineers and our City Landscape Architect to build this large rain garden. Engineers worked to design and modify our soil composition in the area to drain quickly, considering we were managing such a large area of impermeable surfaces. The engineers also designed the roof of the new storage building to drain into the rain garden. The storage building has eight downspouts that feed directly into the center of our garden. The City Landscape Architect assisted with choosing a layout that would be as beautiful as it is functional. This spring ESD employees can enjoy their lunch hours sitting on our recycled plastic benches, staring at our garden in full bloom.

    Rain gardens are an effective way to manage storm water runoff. The water from buildings, streets, parking lots or other impervious surfaces is often polluted. The water can be diverted into a rain garden, where the water can filter through the soil and the plants can take up nutrients, in turn cleaning the water before it enters our groundwater supply. Storm drains for our city, in many cases, do not lead to a treatment facility, but rather go directly to the Grand River. The Wastewater Treatment Plant Rain Garden is a large scale example of what you can achieve with landscaping in your own backyard. The rain garden is now open for tours. If you would like more information on our rain garden or how to build your own rain garden, please visit , the ESD website or contact Sandra Buchner of the City of Grand Rapids at