Stormwater and Rain Gardens

The problem - flooding and water quality

Flooding has become an annual dilemna for communities. As we continue to develop and grow our land mass is becoming more impervious to rain. The result is more frequent flooding with costly and sometimes disastrous consequences. Reducing the volume of water coming off impervious surfaces or capturing and filtering it are of paramount importance.

Significant improvements in water quality have been achieved in the Ohio River watershed due primarily to passage and enforcement of the Clean Water Act (CWA), since its passage in 1972. However, threats continue from stormwater runoff, agricultural runoff, mercury deposition from coal-fired plants, and millions of gallons of untreated sewage that flow into the river each year from sewer overflows. At ORF we are working hard by calling for stronger enforcement of the CWA, and developing and promoting strategies that can reduce pollution of the Ohio River.

Stormwater - precursor to flooding and a threat to water quality

Runoff from streets and lawns, and other impervious surfaces, carries fertilizers, animal waste, pesticides, and oil products to storm sewers and into rivers and streams. USEPA studies show that more than 50% of stream and river pollution is the result of stormwater. So, every drop of rain that you can keep on your property helps to keep our river and streams, and thus, the Ohio River (source of drinking water to millions of people) less polluted.

Retention Ponds - toxic soup bowls

(March 2010) A recent study highlights the collection of pesticides, coal-tar contaminants, herbicides, and other toxic pollutants that are captured in stormwater retention ponds.  Nationally, four municipalities have now adopted ordinances to reduce pollution loads by banning use of coal-tar sealants spread on driveways and parking lots.  More

A beautiful solution to a serious problem

Communities throughout the Ohio River watershed are searching for ways to confront the growing problems created by stormwater. Flooding and degraded water quality are the chief threats posed by this source of non-point pollution. A few communities in Kansas City, Minnesota, and Michigan are attacking this problem head-on with an innovative approach: rain gardens. For the Ohio River watershed, ORF is now finding partners to bring this important development tool to local communities in the fight to control stormwater and improve water quality. Check out our school and community program!

What is a rain garden?

A rain garden is an attractive landscaping feature planted with native plants, that is designed to capture, slow, and filter rain or stormwater. It is designed to drain water within a day, so mosquito eggs do not survive since they require 48 hours to grow into larvae. Furthermore, native plants are typically drought-resistent, accustomed to area soils, and provide needed habitat for butterflies and birds.

Ready to make a rain garden?

Ohio River Foundation has a rain garden program. Check it out!

Other good sources of information are, 10,000 rain gardens,, and maplewood raingardens.