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Rain Gardens and Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure comes in a number of different forms. According to the US EPA, "Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage water and create healthier urban environments." In Hinsdale's Woodlands Projects, green infrastructure is used to economically manage storm water and to improve the health of local streams and rivers.

Recently, the three phases of the Woodlands project worked to implement green infrastructure in the form of rain gardens and bio-swales. The Woodlands project earned two awards for the Village: ACEC's 2014 Engineering Excellence Special Achievement, and the 2014 APWA Sustainability Practices Award. 

What do rain gardens do?
When it rains, rainwater washes over dirty streets carrying the road oils and dirt into the storm sewers and streams. This overloads the local stream's with dirty water, harming both plantlife, wildlife and humans, Rain gardens help in a number of different ways.  This includes: 

  • Retaining Water
    In especially heavy rain events, a large volume of water needs to be taken care of in a relatively small amount of time. When all this water runs straight to the sewers, the sewers can quickly fill up and overflow into streets and houses. By holding some of that water, rain gardens can lighten the strain put on the sewers during severe storms.

    Additionally, water retention in rain gardens can help during smaller rains. By preventing water from immediately running off into streams, the water can recharge groundwater sources or be used by the plants in the immediate area.

  • Cleaning Water
    Through the use of plants and engineered soils, Rain gardens act as natural filters.  The rain gardens separating pollutants out of the water that would otherwise wash into rivers and streams. This ensures cleaner water and a healthier environment downstream.
What makes green infrastructure important?
Green infrastructure is key to solving local and broad-scale environmental problems in a sustainable manner. Rather than spending money on temporary fixes every few years, green infrastructure looks to find long-term solutions using environmental practices. By incorporating green infrastructure to stop issues now, we prevent even worse problems down the road. Sustainable practices and projects like rain gardens offer actual solutions, not just temporary relief.