The Watershed: H2O

Welcome to!

Welcome to!

Welcome to my home in the Watershed. Here I'll show you how to be an H2O Hero just like me! Just do some exploring and I'll share 11 helpful tips with you. Then use the links or tabs below for even more information.

Clean up after your pets

Did you know that 15 to 20 percent of the bacteria in our waterways come from pet waste? Now that really stinks! Cleaning up after your pet is the simplest thing you can do to keep harmful bacteria from being washed into our storm drains, and eventually into our waterways. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Make a Rain Barrel

A rain barrel collects rainwater that can be used later to water landscaping around your home. This can save most homeowners over 1,000 gallons of water a year! Collecting and using rainwater helps protect the environment and saves money and energy by reducing the demand for treated tap water. Learn how to make a rain barrel for your home in our H2O Quality 101 section below.

Minimize your use of fertilizers and pesticides

Keep fertilizers and pesticides off driveways, sidewalks, and roads where they would run off into storm drains. Don't apply them near waterways. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Only Rain Down The Drain

Storm drains connect your neighborhood directly to the nearest stream or body of water. They're different from sanitary sewers, which connect to a treatment facility. it's never a good idea to dump anything into a storm drain because it doesn't get treated and will pollute our waterways. To learn more about storm drains, check out our H2O Quality 101 section.

Recycle Your Oil

When changing your car's oil, please make sure to recycle the old oil. Be sure to clean up any spills by absorbing with kitty litter or sand, then dispose of properly. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Keep the Pavement Clear of Grass Clippings

Mulching grass clippings or leaving them on your lawn provides a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Mowing high helps control weed growth. Sweep up grass clippings from roadways and driveways, and DO NOT dump grass clippings or other plant materials into streets, catch basins, or streams — the nutrients will leach from them and enter nearby waterways, spurring unwanted algae growth. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Mark Storm Drains

Storm drain marking can help deter storm drain dumping and reduce non-point source pollution by informing residents that anything that goes down a storm drain goes directly into a waterbody without being treated. To be an H2O Hero and volunteer to coordinate a storm drain marking event, read our "Get Involved" section.

Maintain a Buffer Strip Along Waterways

Undisturbed (unmowed) vegetation along streams and drainage pathways will capture nutrients that wash off your lawn before they are discharged to the waterway. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Dispose of Hazardous Chemicals Properly

If your garage is anything like Larry's, it probably has its share of half-used cans of paint, cleaners and chemicals lying around. Some people dump them down the storm drain - or throw them in the trash - just to get rid of them. Learn the right way to dispose of these materials so they don't end up getting into our groundwater and our nearby lakes and streams. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Visit the Local Car Wash

Sure, Larry likes to keep his wheels looking hot. But he knows that washing his car at the local car wash - instead of in his driveway - is the best way to keep harmful detergents from getting into our local waterways. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Create a Rain Garden

A rain garden is a planted depression that is designed to absorb rainwater runoff from roofs and driveways. This reduces stormwater runoff by allowing rain to soak into the ground and replenish groundwater. By reducing runoff, rain gardens help protect water quality and reduce erosion and flooding. To install a rain garden in your yard, visit our "Get Involved" section.

At Home
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For Kids
H2O Quality 101
About Us
Rochester Embayment
Your Watershed
Downspout Disconnect
Rain Gardens
Rain Barrels
Porous Pavers
Green Projects

Rain gardens

What is a Rain Garden?

Black Eyed Susan
(Rudbeckia hirta)

(Hyssopus officinalis)

False Aster
(Boltonia asteroides)

Native plants that are attractive and adapted to highly variable amounts of water are a popular choice for rain gardens. Once established, a rain garden is very easy to maintain requiring only occasional weeding comparable to any other landscape feature. Rain gardens can be planted in full sun or shade, just be sure to select plants that do well in the conditions near your house.

How does a rain garden work?

(Courtesy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Benefits of rain gardens.

Rain gardens absorb rooftop water and prevent it from going into the storm drain where it becomes polluted and contributes to flooding. When rainwater and snowmelt soak into the ground the soil, and plant roots clean the water by filtering and absorbing the pollutants. Rain gardens are easy to maintain and have the same amount of maintenance as any other garden. Rain gardens create habitat for wildlife and are an attractive enhancement to any property.

To find out if a rain garden will work in your yard, check out the"Important things you should know before you disconnect your home's downspouts"

Important considerations when choosing where to place your rain garden in your yard.

  1. Proximity to downspout: Make sure that the water is directed at least 10 feet from the house to protect the foundation.
  2. Topography: Place your rain garden in a flatter part of the yard. Placing a rain garden on a slope can cause erosion and may not allow the water enough time to soak into the ground.
  3. Do not place a rain garden over a septic system leach field. Infiltrating additional water could potentially lead to problems with the system.
  4. Avoid areas with existing trees. Excavation involved in building the garden can damage tree roots.
  5. Make sure the water from your downspout stays on your property.
  6. Make sure the rain garden is large enough to absorb the water from the disconnected downspout. Most rain gardens are 100 square feet or less (a 10 X 10 foot area). To calculate how big your rain garden should be for your home, check out the “Rain gardens: A How-to manual for Homeowners”

What types of plants can be used in a rain garden?

Cardinal Flower
(Lobelia cardinalis)

Purple Coneflower
(Echinacea angustifolia)

(Chelone glabra)

(Monarda fistulosa)

  • Species that can tolerate periodic flooding.
  • Shrubs and herbaceous perennials.
  • Select plants for the conditions in your yard i.e. type of soils, amount of sun/shade, sun exposure.
  • Native
  • Noninvasive
  • Use plugs (seedlings), bare root seedlings, divided plants, nursery stock.

Buttonbush(Cephalanthus occidentalis)
  • Shrubs include:…Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), Witch Hazel (Hamamelis verginica), Summer Sweet (Clethra alnifolia), Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), Red-Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea), Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum), Arrowood (Viburnum dentatum)…

There are many more plants that will work in rain gardens in all kinds of conditions. For a more extensive list of plants that will work in a rain garden look at the rain garden guides for homeowners.

Common misconceptions about rain gardens.

  1. "Rain gardens are wet all the time"
    Rain gardens are not ponds or wetlands, they are only wet for a short time after a rain or snow melt. The water usually soaks into the ground within a few hours and always less than 24 hours.
  2. "Rain gardens will attract mosquitoes to my yard."
    Rain gardens do not hold standing water. In a properly designed rain garden water is absorbed into the ground within 24 hours of a rain or a snow melt. Mosquitoes require standing water for at least a week for them to reproduce.
  3. "Rain gardens are a lot of work to maintain."
    Once established a rain garden will require only minimal work, usually only weeding and occasional watering during hot dry spells.

How do I make a rain garden for my home?

Rain gardens: A How-to Manual for Homeowners
(Courtesy of the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension).

Rain Gardens, A How-To Guide.
(Courtesy of the Western New York Stormwater Coalition)

“Rain gardens: A Design Guide for Homeowners in Connecticut”

"Homeowner Guide for a More Bay Friendly Property."
Courtesy of the Chesapeake Stormwater Network

Want to learn more? Attend a free rain garden class

Learn everything you need to know about creating a rain garden in your own yard. Upcoming free classes

Host your own free rain garden class.

The Stormwater Coalition sponsors free rain garden workshops for interested groups, if you have a group interested in hosting a rain garden- Click Here

Where can I buy plants for my rain garden?

Check with local nurseries and garden centers for native plants that will work in rain gardens.

Where can I go to learn more about rain gardens and green infrastructure?

Our Green Projects page has all the information you need.

Upcoming H20 Hero Events and Workshops

For pictures and information about local H2O Heroes and Projects, visit Larry's Facebook Page!