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What are RainScapes?

The RainScapes program promotes and implements projects which reduce stormwater runoff volume and improve water quality on properties within Montgomery County. The County offers technical and financial assistance (in the form of RainScapes Rewards Rebates) to encourage property owners to implement eligible RainScapes techniques on their property.

Image of a RainScape rain garden.

Rain gardens are one type of RainScape

 

A RainScape is a landscape or design technique that helps reduce stormwater runoff from individual properties. 

 

RainScapes can be installed on any kind of property, but those on private residential, institutional, and/ or commercial properties may be eligible for a RainScapes Rewards Rebate.

RainScapes is a program of the Watershed Restoration section of the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. RainScapes are a vital component of the County’s watershed restoration efforts, which are required by law (under the County’s NPDES Stormwater Permit).

 

Getting Started with RainScapes

Explore the different RainScapes eligible to property owners in Montgomery County to decide if you are ready to build your own.  RainScapes are a great addition to private homes, businesses, HOA properties and public spaces.  DEP is here to answer questions and help with your project. 

Even if you are not yet ready to install a RainScape on your property, DEP recommends everyday steps to reduce polluted stormwater runoff from your yard.

For questions about RainScapes, email: rainscapes@montgomerycountymd.gov.

 

RainScapes Video

This short RainScapes video highlights the reasons for installing RainScape projects. It focuses on two types of RainScapes that will reduce stormwater runoff and add beauty to a property.

 

 

Where are RainScapes?

This map shows the type and general location of RainScapes Rewards Projects and the Capitol Improvements Projects of the Watershed Restoration section. Together, they are how the County is working to meet its regulatory requirements and to enhance the quality of the environment in the County. DEP’s stormwater incentive program is called RainScapes Rewards.

 

Poster of the watershed restoration program and RainScapes project locations

 

Take a tour of RainScapes in Montgomery County!

Download the RainScapes self-guided tour information.  (This guide is adapted from a tour held in June 2012)  

 

 

Types of RainScapes

Anywhere you have flowing water from rain you have the potential for a RainScape. When planning on installing a RainScape the first thing you should do is learn how water flows across your property and where it originates. Visualizing how water flows can be tough so the best time to do this assessment is during a rain storm.

An umbrella and a camera will go a long way in helping you plan for the proper RainScapes Rewards Rebate project!

Pictures/videos of your property can also help DEP staff better advise you on which projects would work best for your property. A RainScape can be installed on your property any where you have water running off of an impervious surface like a rooftop or driveway and there is adequate space to redirect, soak up or store the water temporarily.

After you’ve assessed your property the next step will be to decide what RainScape project would work best for you.  Whether it’s a time intensive large scale project, such as a rain garden, or a small easy to install project like a few rain barrels, there is a RainScape solution for almost every problem. The following list gives a brief description of each RainScapes Rewards Rebate type, cost, level of effectiveness, and installation effort.

 

RainScape Techniques
Project Type Description Cost and % Covered Effectiveness  Level of Effort

 

Canopy Trees

Tree Canopy

A canopy tree is a large native tree that you would typically find in a forest.

Learn more about tree planting.

Low Cost

50% average cost covered by rebate

Moderate

Moderate

 

Conservation Landscaping

Image of conservation landscaping.

A garden designed to slow down and soak up rain using native plants. 

Learn more about designing conservation landscaping.

Moderate cost

30%-50% average cost covered by rebate

High 

High 

 

Dry Well

Image of a dry well.

A hole in the ground either filled with rocks, or empty, designed to intercept, and store rain water.

Learn more about installing a dry well.

High Cost

25% average cost covered by rebate

Moderate Moderate

 

Green Roof

Image of a green roof.

A rooftop with gravel and plants that will intercept and soak up stormwater.

Learn more about installing a green roof.

High Cost

30%-50% average cost covered by rebate

Moderate High 

 

Permeable Pavement

Image of permeable pavers

Pavement that is designed to intercept and store rain water.

Learn more about installing permeable pavement.

 Very High Cost

15% - 25% average cost covered by rebate

Very High  Very High

 

Pavement Removal

Pavement Removal

Pavement that is removed and replaced with a garden or sod.

Learn more about pavement removal.

Moderate cost

30%-50% average cost covered by rebate

High High

 

Rain Garden

Image of a rain garden

A saucer shaped garden designed to intercept and store rain water through temporary ponding.

Learn more about designing a rain garden.

Moderate Cost

30%-40% average cost covered by rebate

Very High High

 

Rain Barrels

Image of a rain barrel

A barrel connected to a downspout for the purpose of temporarily capturing and storing rain water.

Learn more about installing a rain barrel.

Low cost

50% average cost covered by rebate

Low Low

 

Cisterns

Image of a cistern.

A larger version of a rain barrel, typically 250 gallons or larger.

Learn more about installing a cistern.

Low cost

50% average cost covered by rebate

Low Moderate

 

General Considerations for Installing RainScapes

  1. Your budget should help narrow down the choices of RainScapes techniques.
  2. Are you interested in better soil drainage and have you identified problem spots?
  3. Do you have a large lot or a small lot to work with and are there any setback requirements on your lot?
  4. Underground utilities might be a factor and before any digging you must consult MISS UTILITY.
  5. Do you want to capture rainfall to re-use it?
  6. Evaluate how much time you have for maintenance of your yard.
  7. Consider if you want to change the look of your landscaping or achieve stormwater control without too much change.
  8. Do you have the equipment required to install some RainScapes?
  9. Do you want a do-it-yourself project, or would you prefer to hire a contractor?  

If you’re still having trouble deciding, feel free to email us at rainscapes@montgomerycountymd.gov with your pictures (reduced file size please), address, and description of what your problem is and what it is you’re trying to accomplish. We would be more than happy to offer some pre-application advice!

 

Benefits of RainScapes

Most rainfall on urban surfaces such as roofs, driveways, roads, parking lots and patios ends up as stormwater runoff. In contrast rainfall on natural surfaces (e.g., forests and meadows) soaks into the ground where it is filtered and can replenish groundwater and recharge streams. RainScapes techniques include rainfall capture and holding, rainfall interception, and simulating good, natural drainage through the soil which helps to:

  • Image of conservation landscaping.
    Many RainScapes can beautify your property.

    Reduce stormwater runoff volumes from individual properties

  • Reduce drainage problems on a property

  • Prevent stormwater pollution from entering our streams

  • Reduce water consumption during dry spells

  • Reduced need for mowing, fertilizer and pesticide applications

  • Enhance yard aesthetics

  • Enhance wildlife habitat

  • Reduce energy costs to heat and cool your home

  • Increase property values

The RainScapes Program promotes the use of innovative techniques in the landscape which soak up or store rainwater, reduce runoff,  and keep pollutants from entering our streams. RainScapes techniques are typically small-scale measures that can be implemented on residential, institutional, and commercial properties to manage stormwater onsite.  Many RainScapes are planted and look like attractive gardens.

 

Image of a Montgomery County stream with severe erosion.
A stream side with severe erosion. RainScapes help reduce stormwater runoff.

Benefits to the Community

RainScapes techniques provide community benefits in addition to the many individual property owners’ benefits. At the individual level, you may feel a sense of accomplishment for your personal contribution to improving the environment. At the community level, RainScapes techniques can beautify neighborhoods, reduce local flooding and increase desirable wildlife habitat, which can increase property values.

Remember that you can install multiple RainScapes techniques on your property to increase the benefits! By implementing these techniques community-wide, cumulative benefits can be achieved.

 

 

 

Who Can Participate?

RainScapes are the perfect project for property owners who wish to reduce stormwater runoff on their property and help protect local waterways. 

Groups that have successfully installed RainScapes projects include:

  • Private Homeowners
  • Schools
  • Businesses
  • Private Institutions
  • Non-profit Organizations
  • Nature Centers 
  • Homeowners Associations
  • Public and Community Spaces

The County offers technical and financial assistance (in the form of rebates) to encourage property owners to implement eligible RainScapes techniques on their property. 

There are four ways property owners can participate:

  1. RainScapes Rewards Rebate Program (Most common form of participation for homeowners and businesses)

  2. Targeted Neighborhoods Program (Applicable for property owners in Glen Echo Heights, Wheaton Woods, KenGar, Stoneybrook/Parkside, Town of Chevy Chase, Breewood neighborhoods, Forest Estates, Garrett Park, Sligo Park Hills)

  3. RainScapes Schools Program

  4. RainScapes Partnerships & Demonstration Projects

Residential RainScapes

Commercial and Institutional RainScapes

          

 

Anyone can build a RainScape, but to participate in the RainScapes Rewards Rebates program you must meet these criteria:
  •  Your property must be located in Montgomery County, outside of the municipal limits of the City of Rockville, City of Takoma Park, or City of Gaithersburg.

  • Projects are not eligible if they are associated with permit approval requirements for new building construction, additions, or renovations.

  • All participation and eligibility decisions are final and are at the sole discretion of the Department of Environmental Protection.

 

Resources and Calendar

Have you ever thought: Where can I find the proper native plants for my RainScapes project? or What are the plants best suited for my location? This section contains several lists, organized by topic, which provide plant and RainScapes useful  information.

 

RainScapes Gazettes

mail Stay Connected!: Subscribe to the quarterly RainScapes Gazette e-Newsletter

 
 

Plant Sales

 

Easy Plants for a Variety of Needs

 

Invasive Plant Lists

 

Contractor Directory

Disclaimer: The products and companies listed above are provided solely as an impartial reference and do not constitute an official endorsement or approval by the Montgomery County Government or any of its agencies. 

Useful Links

  • Assessing your Site:  Residential Uses of LID (Low Impact Development) 
    Hold the mouse cursor over any colored part of the image to identify the LID technique that is being used in this setting. Click on this same area to go directly to the relevant design page.

  • The Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council is a coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to researching, promoting, and educating the public about conservation-based gardening and landscaping practices in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Council is committed to fostering changes in public attitudes and the implementation of practices that result in a cleaner, healthier and more beautiful environment benefiting residents and the region's biological diversity


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Partnerships

The RainScapes Program’s success is partially based on partnerships with community members and groups who have put in RainScapes at their homes, public landscaped areas, and schools. DEP encourages you to contact us about partnering to install RainScapes in your community—helping us manage stormwater at both small and large scales. 

Friends of Sligo Creek and Audubon Naturalist Society jointly created a lessons learned report of Rainscapes installations done in the community. This report is being used by DEP when working on plans for future projects and initiatives. Report available upon request.

 

 
Below we list examples of successful community projects to install RainScapes. Subscribe to the RainScapes Gazette to stay abreast of new community projects and find out more about local watershed groups.

 

2013 - Green Apple Day of Service with Tower Company and Partners

The project installed at Sligo Middle School Courtyard this past fall is an example of a corporate – DEP RainScapes for Schools cooperative effort to install watershed friendly educational landscapes at MCPS schools. 

 

2009-2012 - Woodmoor Green Team/Neighbors of Northwest Branch

Residential RainScapes have been installed as part of a partnership approach between DEP RainScapes and the Neighbors of Northwest Branch using volunteers who have worked with their community to assess properties for opportunities and then, using a combination of sweat equity, grant funding and materials provided by DEP, installed a number of projects.

 

2012 - Geneva Day School   

This conservation landscape was installed during a conservation landscape class co‐hosted by the RainScapes and Outreach programs of DEP and the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB). A group of 17 area residents spent two days learning about and constructing, this conservation landscape.

This garden intercepts and soaks in rainwater from a large parking lot before it can enter a storm drain at the bottom of the property. To help slow down the water, before it enters the garden, there is a 30 foot long, 1 foot deep level spreader (a pit of stone which helps slow the water down and then spread it throughout the whole garden.) This prevents the water from entering at one concentrated point which could cause erosion. This garden is good example of an alternative to a rain garden when a rain garden won’t fit, or, is too large or expensive to build. In addition to stormwater control, the Geneva Day School garden will also be used as educational tool for students teaching them the importance of stormwater control and habitat benefits from native plants. 

 

2011 - Izaak Walton League of America 

This 200 square foot rain garden (left picture), constructed in April 2011, captures and treats rain from approximately 1,500 square feet of roof from the League’s national headquarters building in Gaithersburg. Located to the right of the building entrance, this rain garden serves as an excellent demonstration site.

Founded in 1922, the Izaak Walton League of America protects America's outdoors through education, community‐based conservation, and promoting outdoor recreation. This garden was made possible with financial and volunteer support from the City of Gaithersburg, Maryland Division of the Izaak Walton League, Doug Beavers, local citizens, and Izaak Walton League national headquarters staff. Also on the property is a rain barrel‐conservation landscape demonstration partnership project with DEP and IWLA and the National Capitol Watershed Stewards Academy. You will see native grasses, serviceberry and other plants that are slowing the water and filtering the roof runoff from the picnic shelter before it flows into the pond. This project has two planting beds and one rain barrel.

 

2010 - Wheaton Triangle- GreenWheaton

This demonstration garden, located on Reedie Drive between Veirs Mill Road and Georgia Avenue, is a 500 sf conservation landscape, planted in the spring of 2010. The garden was installed with volunteers from GreenWheaton, Friends of Sligo Creek and DEP RainScapes staff. Five hundred square feet of turf was removed, 2 inches of compost was spread on top and worked in, plants were installed and a 3 inch mulch layer was added to conserve moisture. The garden is maintained by the County with support from GreenWheaton. The intent was to reduce the amount of runoff from the hard packed grassy area above the garden, while introducing a beautiful landscape into downtown Wheaton. All of the plants in this garden are native to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. 

 

2009 - Greenwich Forest Park- Friends of Cabin John

This is a partnership project with RainScapes, Montgomery County Parks and Friends of Cabin John. The rain garden retrofit is located at the back of the park and information about the project is mounted ona sign by the paved path.

 

2005 - Eastern Middle School 

Dedicated members of the Friends of Sligo Creek and the Neighbors of Northwest Branch worked together to help their watersheds by implementing environmentally beneficial landscaping such as conservation landscaping and rain gardens on local properties such as schoolyards (e.g. Eastern Middle School). 

 

2005 - Forest Park Rain Garden 

Friends of Sligo Creek joined forces with the City of Takoma Park to implement and showcase Low Impact Development (LID) practices (such as RainScapes) on city-owned property. The first project was in November 2005, where a rain garden was installed at Forest Park, located at the corner of Prince George Ave and Elm Ave. The lower end of the park was experiencing serious problems with erosion due to excessive stormwater runoff from impervious play surfaces in the park. The rain gardens were designed to improve or even eliminate the erosion problems at the park while protecting our streams.

 

2005 - Fletcher's Service Center

The RainScapes team and Fletcher's Service Center worked during the spring of 2005 to plan and plant a rain garden to treat and manage stormwater on what had been a relatively unused piece of land adjacent to a convenience store for customers at the service station and car wash. Bobby Fletcher, owner of the service station, was interested in providing a comfortable picnic area for customers. The rain garden provides a pleasant setting with landscaping and plants. Mr. Fletcher's ongoing commitment to water quality and environmental protection was apparent throughout the process.

 

2003 - American Elm Park 

Friends of Sligo Creek, along with the neighborhood Civic Associations, agreed to co-sponsor a project at American Elm Park. The project consisted of the installation of a rain garden on the upper portion of the park. DEP helped with know-how and plant material, and three members of the department came to help on the day the garden was built. Funding was provided by the Chesapeake Bay Trust. Dozens of members of the community also came out to help build the rain garden. The rain garden provides stormwater benefits to that part of the Sligo Creek watershed and serves to educate homeowners about stormwater runoff. The site serves as a pilot demonstration project and is monitored by the community.

 

White Oak Library

Two tree box filters were installed at the White Oak Library to capture approximately one acre of the main parking lot area. The boxes work by filtering the first flush off the parking lot through a well drained soil. Once the filters reach full capacity during large storms the water utilizes the conventional inlet located adjacent to the boxes. According to University of Virginia research, the tree boxes should remove approximately 85% total suspended solids (TSS), 74% total phosphorous, 69% total nitrogen, and 82% metals (copper). The tree box supplier provides a two-year warranty and maintenance program for each box. The manufacturer will replace any dead plant material, remove trash and sediment and replenish mulch during that period. Overall, installation involved approximately one week and had limited impacts to the numerous utility constraints that were faced at this site.