What are rain gardens and why are they important in New Orleans?

by Stephanie Gross

What is a rain garden?
A rain garden is a garden that collects storm water, filters out chemicals, and reduces flooding.

You can think of a rain garden as a buffer zone. Instead of dumping storm water into the drainage system or in our bayous and rivers, runoffs from storms are collected in a rain garden and are filtered by native plants to remove chemicals. A well constructed rain garden is often depressed or bowl shaped to encourage water accumulation into the garden. It should have soil that absorbs water and drains within a few hours. Soil that keeps pockets of standing water would be undesirable because it facilitates mosquito breeding.

Many harmful chemicals such a pesticides, fertilizer, motor oil, metals, grease, pet waste, etc., collected in runoffs find their way back to water treatment centers where they must be removed from the water supply. Rain gardens organic construction acts as a filter. Soil, plant roots, mulch, and even fungi and bacteria break down these harmful chemicals naturally.

Planting water loving plants like Cypress trees, Louisiana irises, Spider lilies, and native grasses – all which can be seen at the Wildair and Forshey sites- not only beautifies the area, but also encourages these native plants to do what they do best- minimize water accumulation and reduce erosion.

These key features of a rain garden are very important in New Orleans neighborhoods. Enjoy these rain gardens for their beauty and for what they provide you by reducing flood water. If you see trash or debris obstructing the drainage or harming the plant life, please remove it and dispose of it properly. This is an ongoing project to solve water problems that our city faces.


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