May 9, 2013

RainWise: How Seattle Homes are Managing Rain Water

Are you interested in beautifying your yard this Spring?  In areas throughout Seattle (designated as drainage basins), property owners can get up to a 100% reimbursement for beautiful and functional landscaping and rain water cisterns through the Seattle Public Utilities’ and King County’s RainWise program!

This rain garden in Beacon Hill was installed
with the help of Sustainable Seattle in 2010.
If you live in the neighborhoods of Ravenna, Bryant, View Ridge, Laurelhurst, Wedgwood, or Windermere, you may be eligible for these rebates – which average $4000!  When you install a rain garden or rain cistern through RainWise, you will be helping prevent pollution from entering Lake Washington and Puget Sound.  You can check out your eligibility now at

Sustainable Seattle’s Green Blocks Blue Sound (GBBS) program is excited to partner with Seattle Public Utilities to bring RainWise to you.  As a non-profit partner, Sustainable Seattle wants to help you access this great opportunity.  

Join us for a RainWise Open House on May 13, 6:30pm (doors open at 6pm) at the Center for Spiritual Living, 5801 Sand Point Way NE.

Learn more about the steps to installing a RainWise rain garden or cistern, hear about why homeowners in Ballard and Northeast Seattle decided to go RainWise, and have a chance to talk to the contractors that install rain gardens! Here’s a preview of the program:

What does RainWise pay for?

Rain gardens are beautiful and functional landscape features with sloped sides and deep-rooted, thriving plants.  The roof, sidewalk, and parking lot run-off soaks into the rain garden rather than flowing into the street and nearest storm drain.  These native planted gardens also provide a beneficial habitat for insects and birds.

Cisterns are 200 gallons or more above ground containers used to collect rain from the rooftop.  During the winter, cisterns slow the flow of rain to reduce the amount of water entering the sewer system.  The valve is kept slightly open so it can drain as it fills again during the rainy season.  In the summer, the outflow valve can be closed to save the water for your garden.

Why does GBBS want you to participate in the RainWise program?

Prevent Polluted Runoff and Combined Sewer Overflows-  With every rain, water falling on our roofs, driveways and other hard surfaces carries pollutants to the nearest storm drain and into local waterways and Puget Sound.  This run-off can contain oil and grease, fertilizers, pesticides and other toxic chemicals.  In some areas, the runoff combines with sewage and wastewater from our homes.  RainWise is available in these areas of Seattle to prevent combined sewer overflows.  For information about CSOs visit

Preventing polluted runoff is a key action to protect our waterways.  The Department of Ecology says that is the number one source of pollution in the Puget Sound!

Be part of the solution!  By slowing and cleaning runoff on your property, you are positively impacting the whole system.  One residential rain garden can divert 70% to 100% of the rain runoff from the property.  With single family properties making up 75% of Seattle’s private land, what we all do at home really does make a difference.  Rain gardens and cisterns on your property are a great way to start.

How will Green Blocks Blue Sound help?

Sustainable Seattle’s Green Blocks Blue Sound program is offering you the extra support and information you might need during the RainWise process.  We will answer your questions about RainWise and rain gardens, point you to valuable resources, and work with you to spread the word about rain gardens and RainWise to your neighbors.

The vision of GBBS is neighbors working together to install rain gardens and cisterns, resulting in clusters of rain gardens.  Installing clusters as neighbors can help build community and open up the conversation about long-term sustainability in your neighborhood.  There are many stories of Seattle-area neighbors that worked together to build rain gardens. You can also hear more about them in person at an upcoming RainWise Open House.

Become a Rain Garden Ambassador!  Do you want to , By working with Green Block Blue Sound as a rain garden ambassador, you will catalyze action in your community.  We’ll provide you with talking points to start conversations, a letter to distribute to your neighbors, or a house party on us to start the conversation and plan for the future!

How else can you help prevent polluted runoff?
Rain gardens and cisterns are just one way that we can all help keep water on our property and prevent polluted runoff.  Here are a few ways the City of Seattle and many residents are engaging approaches:

The City’s Approach-  The City of Seattle through the Restore our Waters program (which includes RainWise) is taking a multi-pronged approach to reducing polluted runoff in Seattle.  This includes bioswales and rain garden installation along roadsides throughout Seattle.  Check out a tour of SEA street, a natural infrastructure project in Seattle.  The city is also restoring creek habitats and supporting the development of green roofs!

At Home-  Residents can also take additional actions at home through simple steps, including increasing native plants on the property, maintaining your car to prevent leaks, and scooping up after your pet!  In addition to reducing pollution in the combined sewer systems, these simple steps help reduce the polluted runoff in the approximately 46,000 storm drains flowing directly into our local waterways.

Interested in taking that step or learning more about rain gardens and other simple steps?  Join us on May 13, 6:30pm (doors open at 6pm) at the Center for Spiritual Living- 5801 Sand Point Way NE.

When a community takes action together to address a problem like polluted runoff, everyone benefits and everyone is a part of the solution.  Become RainWise and inspire your neighborhood!

For more information, or to become a rain garden ambassador, contact Green Blocks Blue Sound at


  1. Why is it that these kind of programs are mostly only offered in affluent neighborhood? I never see programs like this offered in Burien or White Center or any areas where people who don't already have a lot of money could really benefit from these programs. I'm sorry but if you can afford to live in Windermere, you can afford to install your own rain garden without it being subsidized.

  2. And yes I know that Burien is not in Seattle. How about the Central District or Rainier Valley?

  3. Hi Ken! Your comments are so appreciated. The RainWise program is not determined by demographics but rather focused on addressing the greatest environmental need of the city and engaging homeowners in the solution. Specifically, RainWise is addressing the combined sewer overflows or CSO events that cause house sewage and stormwater to flow untreated during large storms into our waterways, impacting all of us and our wildlife. The city is required to address this source of pollution. RainWise started in Ballard because that area was the source of a high percentage of these overflow events in Seattle. It is now expanding to other areas where the city of Seattle has similar concerns - including Delridge and Highland Park in West Seattle. Keep an eye on it expanding South here: Thanks for you engagement in this program!

  4. What a fantastic program! Seattle and Washington are encouraging people to collect rainwater and plant sustainable plants, and places with much less water seem to do just the opposite, with some locals denying homeowners the ability to collect rainwater. Great job with this blog!

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