Rain Gardens at Kalamazoo Valley Community College

Informational graphic showing what is a rain garden.
Rain Garden

Rain Gardens at Kalamazoo Valley Museum and Kalamazoo Valley Community College

What is a Rain Garden?
A rain garden is a shallow depression planted with a variety of deep-rooted flowers, shrubs and grasses that are native to the region. A rain garden collects storm water from a roof, driveway, or street and allows it to soak into the ground, helping to filter out impurities.

Why are rain gardens important/beneficial?
When it rains, solid surfaces such as parking lots, streets, and sidewalks do not allow the water to soak into the ground. This contributes to the pollution of the water. Rain gardens collect the water and slowly filter it back into the soil, naturally removing pollutants from the runoff. When planted with the right types of plants, rain gardens also provide habitats for birds, butterflies and other wildlife.

Why use native plants?
A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction. Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. Native wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs generally have very deep root systems that prevent erosion and provide extra filtration. Most native plants also cast off their roots annually, growing new roots and providing more soil aeration and pathways for water to flow. Native plants thrive with minimum care and provide food and shelter for wildlife.

Graphic showing how rain water filters through different layers before going into the city storm water system.

Urban rain gardens at the Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Anna Whitten Hall and Kalamazoo Valley Museum help manage the negative effects of stormwater runoff and pollution. The garden beds in both locations utilize “bioretention media.” This refers to an intentional way of layering soil, mulches, turf and grasses to maximize the filtration of heavy metals and other pollutants from the stormwater.

Permeable paver systems used near the garden beds at the two sites improve the negative impact of stormwater runoff. Water filters through the pavers into internal storage chambers so there is less chance of flooding. The pavers provide filtration that eliminates some pollutants.

Graphic on how a cistern works

What is a Cistern?
A cistern is a vessel that is used to hold liquids, especially water. The cistern at the College’s Food Innovation Center catches rainwater that falls on the roof of the greenhouse. Filters inside the cistern remove debris and contaminants from the water so it can be saved and used later.

How does a cistern help the watershed?
Just like a rain garden, a cistern is a way of keeping rainwater from entering waterways directly.

This cistern can capture, clean and prevent 10,000 gallons of rainwater from entering storm sewers or waterways. Collected rainwater can be used to irrigate crops and grow food, which conserves city water. You can use a small cistern, commonly called a “rain barrel,” to capture rainwater from the roof of your house. Use it to water your garden and houseplants.

Graphic explaining why managing storm water runoff is important.

Managing Stormwater Runoff
Stormwater originates from rain and melting snow. In natural landscapes, the soil can better absorb stormwater because plants help hold it close to where it falls.

Urban areas and ever our neighborhoods have more hard surfaces (parking lots, roads, buildings, compacted soil) that do not allow rain to soak into the ground. Water runoff is common, which can lead to flooding, erosion and displaced sediment.

When it rains stormwater is polluted by a variety of human activities. The polluted runoff enters drain systems, eventually making its way to Kalamazoo’s rivers, wetlands, and lakes.

Gardening Kalamazoo for Clean Water Project
This site is part of a larger project of the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Arcadia Commons and Bronson Healthy Living Campuses. It was designed to maintain green infrastructure while also educating community members about waste water management issues. The project was initiated by Kalamazoo Valley Community College and has been funded in part through Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Nonpoint Source Program by the United States Environment Protection Agency.

Graphic text logo for the Michigan Department of Enviromental Quality and the United States Eviromental Protection Agency.