Archive for the ‘Landscaping’ Category

Stormwater Management– Have a Plan

A Watershed Approach to Green Infrastructure

Flooded City

Flooded city street

By Tom Barrett

“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink!” Do you remember this from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge? In the story, the Mariner is lost at sea with a dead albatross around his neck, and although surrounded by water, he is dying of thirst because the ocean water is undrinkable. At the end of the story, the Mariner awakes the next morning “a sadder and a wiser man.”

Today in America we face a similar situation. There are over 42,000 impaired waterways in the United States. An ‘impaired waterway’ is a lake, river, stream or estuary that is too polluted to meet water quality standards. An ‘impaired waterway’ is the nice way of saying the water is dangerous to wildlife and human health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that as much as 40% of our nation’s lakes, rivers, and streams are not safe for swimming, fishing, or drinking. Incredibly in some states, over 80% of the waterways are not safe for these activities.

Impaired Waters Listed By State

Alabama color.gif283
Alaska color.gif35
American Samoa color.gif44
Arizona color.gif79
Arkansas color.gif225
California color.gif1,021
Colorado color.gif244
Connecticut color.gif461
Delaware color.gif101
District Of Columbia color.gif36
Florida color.gif2,292
Georgia color.gif215
Guam color.gif47
Hawaii color.gif309
Idaho color.gif916
Illinois color.gif1,057
Indiana color.gif1,836
Iowa color.gif480
Kansas color.gif1,372
Kentucky color.gif1,300
Louisiana color.gif236
Maine color.gif114
Maryland color.gif184
Massachusetts color.gif720
Michigan color.gif2,352
Minnesota color.gif1,144
Mississippi color.gif229
Missouri color.gif257
Montana color.gif584
N. Mariana Islands color.gif24
Nebraska color.gif330
Nevada color.gif215
New Hampshire color.gif1,449
New Jersey color.gif716
New Mexico color.gif209
New York color.gif1,543
North Carolina color.gif1,270
North Dakota color.gif201
Ohio color.gif267
Oklahoma color.gif657
Oregon color.gif1,397
Pennsylvania color.gif6,957
Puerto Rico color.gif165
Rhode Island color.gif120
South Carolina color.gif961
South Dakota color.gif155
Tennessee color.gif1,028
Texas color.gif719
Utah color.gif156
Vermont color.gif104
Virgin Islands color.gif87
Virginia color.gif1,523
Washington color.gif2,420
West Virginia color.gif1,097
Wisconsin color.gif593
Wyoming color.gif107

Total: 42,643 impaired waters

(Source: US EPA –  – Watershed Assessment, Tracking & Environmental Result)

Over the last forty-five years we have come a long way in improving water quality. In the 1960’s Johnny Carson joked that he took a walk on the Hudson River. The Hudson River was so polluted you could almost walk on it. In 1968 the Cuyahoga River in Northeast Ohio caught fire for the last time. Since 1868, the Cuyahoga River, made famous by being the “river that caught fire,” actually caught fire 13 times. These two impaired waterways helped propel the environmental movement. In 1972, the Clean Water Act was passed into law and the task of cleaning up our polluted waterways began. The purpose of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the quality of our nation’s waters by preventing point and nonpoint source pollution. Overall, we have done a great job of fixing point source pollution, or single identifiable source, problems.

 Nonpoint Source Pollution

Toxic Algae Bloom

Toxic algae bloom from stormwater runoff

If this is the case, why are over 40% of our lakes, rivers, and streams still unsafe for swimming, fishing, or drinking? The main culprit is nonpoint source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution is the greatest threat to water quality in our nation, i.e. stormwater. When it rains, the stormwater is rapidly collected, piped, and swiftly dumped into the closest waterway. Stormwater, as it travels across the surface of the land, carries with it all the pollutants from the landscape. In agricultural landscapes, excess nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticides are concentrated in the nearest body of water.

In urban areas, in addition to lawn chemicals, all the oils, grease, salts, and heavy metals from our roadways are deposited in our local waterways. In many urban areas, our stormwater systems are combined with our sewerage systems. When a stormwater surge occurs, the sewage system is not large enough to handle the volume of water from the rainfall. Rainwater mixed with sewer water overflows, untreated, into the nearest local waterway. In many cites, a sewage overflow may occur with as little as one-fourth inch of rain. Take for example Indianapolis, Indiana, where the city experiences 50 to 60 overflow events every year.

In the past, civil engineers would say, “The solution to pollution is dilution.” This meaning, if you had enough clean water running through the system, a little bit of pollution would not be noticeable. There is a lot of evidence that this assumption is grossly inaccurate.

We have reached our limit in diluting the pollution we create by dumping our wastewater into our local waterways. Today, the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico is the size of Connecticut. The dead zone is an area in the Gulf of Mexico almost completely devoid of any life because of a lack of oxygen in the water. The dead zone is a direct result of fertilizer runoff from the rivers and streams upstream from the Gulf. The excessive fertilizer runoff results in algae blooms. When the algae die, the process of decomposition consumes oxygen, creating the oxygen depleted “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. With advancements in green infrastructure, we have an opportunity to clean up our waterways and enhance our environment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed extensive research demonstrating that green or more natural solutions to stormwater runoff are less expensive than conventional grey stormwater solutions. Additionally, green stormwater solutions create an array of broader benefits for local economies and the environment. From an environmental standpoint, instead of trying to minimize the impact we have on the environment we can actually enhance our environment through the utilization of living plants when creating green infrastructure. We have an opportunity to make our environment better for our children and their children.

Green infrastructure is a natural approach to stormwater mitigation that brings nature back into the fold. Before urban and agricultural development, in a deciduous hardwood forest or native prairie, less than 1% of rainfall ran off the surface of the land into the local streams. In the natural hydrologic cycle, the continuous movement of water above and below the earth’s surface, 10% to 40% of rainfall would go into the ground and recharge our aquifers, 40% to 50% went back into our atmosphere as evapotranspiration, and 20% to 30% would go into an interflow layer of soil. The interflow layer of the soil, when undisturbed by human development, contains organic matter, microbes, and plant roots that would extend downward twelve to thirty feet or more. The plant roots and organic matter helped to maintain the porosity and permeability of the soil. This is the primary reason only 1% of rain would run off the surface of the native landscape directly into the nearest body of water. This interflow layer or topsoil layer of a native landscape acts like an old-fashioned wastewater treatment plant or a biologically balanced aquarium. As the stormwater drains into the interflow layer, the microbes in the soil clean the water of harmful pollutants. Eventually the interflow water travels downstream into the nearest waterway. The stormwater enters the local waterway cleanly and slowly.

 Stream Bank Erosion

Agricultural Runoff

Non-point source pollution from agricultural runoff.

Another problem with our current grey infrastructure approach to stormwater management is stream bank erosion. To prevent flooding, we rapidly collect rainwater, pipe it, and deposit it in the nearest body of water. The rapid collection of stormwater increases the velocity and volume of water in our local waterways.

The excessive flow of stormwater into our streams scours the stream banks increasing stream bank erosion. Stream bank erosion increases the sediment that streams carry, resulting in the loss of fertile bottomland, and a decrease in habitat for species on land and in the stream.

If you find yourself in a forest during a rain, you will notice immediately that you hardly get wet. The leaves of the trees slow the rain falling from the sky, slowly dropping the water onto the floor of the forest. When you walk through a native forest, you will also notice the forest floor feels spongy and soft. In an undisturbed native forest or prairie, the plant roots and soil organic matter maintain a soil structure that is loose, friable, and capable of absorbing a lot of rainwater. In contrast, today our urban landscapes runoff over 90% of the rainwater that falls from the sky; suburban landscapes rainfall runoff is over 60%; and even agricultural areas will runoff over 40% of the rainfall.

Over the last twenty years our impermeable surface area has increased by over 40%, mainly because of parking regulations and wider streets. Current site development techniques strip off almost all the topsoil and heavy construction equipment compacts the remaining subsoil to over 90%. When soils are compacted by mechanical forces the soil structured is destroyed. The result is reduced soil porosity that limits water infiltration. A soil that is 90% compacted has the consistency, density, and firmness of a gravel road.

These practices highly reduce rainwater absorption rates, even within intensively landscaped areas. With one-inch of rainfall, a 2,500 square foot roof will generate 1,500 gallons of water. On a one-quarter acre residential property, a one-inch rainfall will deliver almost 7,000 gallons of water. A city block of five acres will experience 135,000 gallons of water, or the equivalent of more than five average-sized swimming pools.

When you consider a watershed, the volume of water from a one-inch rainfall can easily exceed several million gallons of water. Unlike today, in the past most of this rainwater stayed on-site, with very little runoff into the local streams and waterways. As you start to understand the volume of water from stormwater and the impairments that have occurred due to our current land use practices, it becomes clear why the EPA has designated stormwater as the largest source of water pollution in America. In the recently released five-year strategic plan, the EPA designates protecting America’s water as second in priority, only surpassed by addressing climate change and improving air quality.

 Greening Our Grey Infrastructure

Green infrastructure

A bioswale creates a more natural approach to stormwater mitigation.

So where does green infrastructure fit in? The three primary concepts in developing a green infrastructure approach to stormwater are:

  1. Capture rainwater as close to the source as possible;
  2. Slow down rainwater flow rate; and
  3. Filter rainwater through absorption. In natural forest and native prairie areas rain is soaked into the land, filtered through the soil, and applied back into the landscape.

There are many tools used in developing green infrastructure. Rain gardens, bioswales, and infiltration planters use plant material to retain and filter rainwater. Permeable paving materials help to reduce the volume and velocity of stormwater while filtering out heavy metals, grease, and oils. Reconstructed wetlands, like naturally occurring wetlands, act like kidneys of the ecosystem. And planting trees and native grasses along stream banks can be more effective and less expensive than conventional stream armoring techniques of rock riprap and gabion cages.

Green infrastructure works best when it is combined with a comprehensive stormwater management plan based upon the existing watershed. Combining green infrastructure with existing grey infrastructure is the most cost effective solution to solving our nonpoint source pollution problems. American Rivers published a study three years ago, entitled The Value of Green Infrastructure, that found green infrastructure, when properly deployed, created more jobs for the longest period and for the least amount of money. Public education is crucial to the successful development and implementation of a comprehensive green infrastructure plan.

Rain Garden Construction

Rain garden under construction

Some of the best success stories come out of Portland, Seattle, Chicago, and Philadelphia where communities are working together taking a neighborhood approach to stormwater mitigation. The conventional approach to stormwater issues is to fix the problem where the problem occurs, at the point of convergence. We do not pay attention to the source of the problem, usually further upstream. We install a storm drain and connect it to the nearest stormwater or sewage pipe. After fifty years of taking this approach we find ourselves constructing sewage treatment systems and conveyance systems five times larger than needed so the current system can handle the stormwater with our antiqued sewerage treatment plants. Handling stormwater like sewer water is not only wasteful but it is extremely expensive.

If we take a watershed approach utilizing the tools of green infrastructure, stormwater is treated as close to the source as possible. The root problem is addressed on-site without expensive conveyance systems and oversized sewage treatment facilities. Handling stormwater as close to the source as possible requires a green infrastructure design solution as far upstream in the watershed as possible. If done correctly, this method has proven to be the most effective and usually least expensive means of mitigating stormwater.

Green Infrastructure in Practice

Stormwater Flow Map

Stormwater flow map

In a 50-year-old condominium complex, built next to a major creek, a huge stormwater issue was created that eroded the stream banks and threatened the structural foundation of several condominium units. Several years ago, an expensive and conventional gabion basket retaining wall was installed to stabilize the stream banks against further erosion. It was quickly discovered that this grey infrastructure approach only moved the problem further down stream.

After installing a test rain garden to reduce a flooding basement issue, the homeowners association was convinced of the effectiveness of green infrastructure. Subsequently, a green infrastructure plan was developed based upon stormwater received by each of four drainage basins or watersheds on their 78-acre parcel of land. It was discovered that most of the stormwater causing the problem was coming upstream past the property line. Working together with surrounding community neighbors proved to be the most cost effective way to deal with what could be a very expensive stormwater issue.

Stormwater Issue Map

Stormwater issue map

The completed green infrastructure plan developed for this condominium complex clearly identified how much stormwater volume needed to be handled. The perimeter of the property will be phase one of a ten-year plan. Subsequent phases of the plan, which are downstream from the initial phases, will be evaluated to determine the effectiveness of the green infrastructure solutions implemented in previous years. What was discovered during the development of this plan was that the further upstream we go to develop a stormwater solution the less expensive the solution is and the more effective it is to handle the larger volumes that converge downstream.

Planning Our Consequences

Ideally, the long-term goal of any green infrastructure plan is that no piece of property within a watershed or stormwater basin has any stormwater runoff. If zero stormwater runoff can be achieved, land use planning becomes a dynamic tool that addresses the largest source of pollution in America today. Developing a watershed plan utilizing green infrastructure design takes a completely unconventional approach to stormwater mitigation.

We are learning that green infrastructure mimics the natural water cycle. Green infrastructure develops better filtration, filtration that we do not have in our conventional approach. Moreover, green infrastructure is often significantly less expensive than conventional grey infrastructure.

Natural Water Cycle Image

Natural water cycle

Grey infrastructure, although expensive, does an excellent job at reducing flooding. However, grey infrastructure fails miserably in reducing stormwater runoff and reducing pollution. Grey infrastructure works well for the 100-year rainfall events but does little for the frequent one-inch rainfall events. This is where green infrastructure shines. For the one- to three-inch rainfall events, green infrastructure works best. Combining green infrastructure with existing grey infrastructure utilizes the best of new technology with conventional technology, creating a system that is not only more effective by also more economical. This is the next step in an evolutionary approach to better understanding our environment and the future.

This new paradigm of understanding nature applies to stormwater mitigation, and many other environmental issues we currently face. As these new concepts are considered it is important to remember: in nature there is no good, there is no bad, there are only consequences.

Stormwater – A Watershed Plan for Green Infrastructure

The Rain Garden at Chicago Center for Green Technology

The Rain Garden at Chicago Center for Green Technology

Stormwater Mitigation Presentation at the Chicago Center for Green Technology

I had the pleasure of presenting “A Watershed Plan for Green Infrastructute” at the Chicago Center for Green Technology (CCGT) on Thursday, May 22nd. The audience realized that stormwater is everyone’s problem and, over the years we have polluted our waterways beyond what most of us realize.

Our current development techniques disrupt the natural hydrologic cycle. Filtration is the key to cleaning our stormwater.  Keeping rainfall on-site is the least expensive and most effective method to improving our environment

The highlight of the presentation was when Bryan Glosik, of the Chicago Center for Green Technology, led a tour of the sophisticated and natural stormwater management system at CCGT. Bryan did an excellent job of explaining the effectiveness of the rain gardens in mitigating the local stormwater problem.

Here is a copy of the presentation:

Bryan Glosik Portrait

Bryan Glosik, Chicago Center for Green Technology, Chicago, Illinois


Here are comments and feedback about the presentation:

Filtration is key. Water run off disrupt the water cycle. Keeping water in your yard is important.
– Stephen Meyer
The video was great.
The outside tour was my favorite part.
I like the combination of field trip, short video, lecture and case study.
– Armando Median Jr.
What can a small homeowner do?
– David Lindstrom
There are small things that I can do that will make a difference.
– Maureen McCabe

Green Infrastructure in Lenexa, Kansas for Stormwater

Rainwater to Recreation

Lenexa Kansas LogoThe city of Lenexa, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, has a grand vision for a more sustainable and livable community. Part of this vision has been to embark on a green infrastructure project to address stormwater runoff in Central Green, a new 10-acre park within City Center North that offers an abundance of open green space, cascading ponds with stepping stones, and a well connected trail system. The green infrastructure project, called Rain to Recreation, has revitalized the surrounding natural habitat by transforming area rainwater from a disposal problem into an appealing recreational amenity.

The cascading ponds, otherwise called step pools, are designed to increase oxygen levels and reduce the flow rate of stormwater. The series of step pools lead to a constructed wetland with native plantings for naturally treating and absorbing the water. This innovative adaptation turned Lenexa’s stormwater liability into an asset.

Lenexa KansasThe four key goals of the Rain to Recreation program:

  1. Flood prevention – flood prevention involves investigating complaints of existing flooding as well as modeling streams for potential flooding. If homes are threatened, Rain to Recreation works to initiate a capital improvement project to solve the problem.
  2. Water protection – Rain to Recreation protects restored streams and other natural areas with best management practices to also prevent and reduce pollution. Native plantings, stream buffers, sediment bays, wetlands and bioretention cells are just a few of the ways Rain to Recreation works to keep water clean.
  3. Habitat restoration – Rain to Recreation aims to improve surrounding habitat by leaving the bottom of restored channels natural, and providing riffle and pool structures in all restored streams, as well as native corridors adjacent to the streams. Striving also to protect a habitat zone around lakes for future preservation; provide fish structures, such as brush piles and sand beds in lakes, and nesting boxes for a variety of birds.
  4. Education and recreation – A vital part of every project is educating the community, whether it’s generating buy-in from the beginning, outlining recreational amenities like trails and playgrounds, or setting outlines for how to protect areas after construction. Rain to Recreation works to engage local citizens, businesses, and other area stakeholders to increase communication and satisfy needs.

Central Green Park – A Constructed Wetland

The main feature of Lenexa’s green infrastructure project for Central Green park is the stream way. The Central Green stream way drains 65 acres of rainwater runoff that is guided through seven constructed step pools to slow the flow and oxygenate the rainwater as it pours over rock prior to ending up in the constructed wetland. The wetland area is planted with native plants to support filtration of the rainwater. The roots of these native plants penetrate deep within the soil turning the soil into a big sponge that can easily soak up the rainwater. Through this bio-remediation process, stormwater quality is dramatically improved and easily absorbed on the property. This innovative stormwater management approach transforms stormwater from a cost to a benefit, not only for the natural environment, but also for social and recreational enjoyment for the community.

Take a virtual tour of Lenexa’s green infrastructure.

Lenexa One of America’s Most Livable Cities

As a result of the city of Lenexa’s vision, Lenexa was named one of the best places to live in the U.S. by Money Magazine in 2011. Also Lenexa has become a role model for other communities interested in reaping the benefits that green infrastructure design can bring to a community – showcasing their design process and outcomes so other communities can easily model and build upon their own stormwater management programs. Lenexa’s dedication to their vision shows the value of innovative stormwater management, watershed protection techniques, use of native plant species, along with recreational amenities and environmental education for community members – making Lenexa a better place for today and for the future.

EPA Supports Green Stormwater Management in Lenexa, Kansas

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, contributed funding toward Lenexa’s green infrastructure project for Central Green. EPA’s stormwater website Managing Wet Weather with Green Infrastructure – summarizes common green infrastructure approaches and key resources for research, funding and partnerships. The EPA recognizes the need for resilient and affordable solutions to the many frail infrastructures in need of replacement or repair. Green infrastructure is one solution. You can join GreenStream, and EPA listserv featuring updates on green infrastructure publications, training and funding opportunities by sending an email to this link.

Join EPA Green Stream List

Following is the EPA video clip detailing the Lenexa’s green infrastructure project for Central Green:

 Click Here to Learn More About Green Infrastructure

Drip Irrigation

Water Your Garden Easily and Efficiently

Water Only Where You Need It

Drip Irrigation Garden ImageDrip Irrigation is the most efficient method of watering your garden available. Conventional irrigation systems may only be 50% efficient.  A properly installed drip irrigation system is over 90% efficient. Drip irrigation applies water directly to the soil, only where you need it. The water is immediately available to the plant roots. Water is not wasted through evaporation, wind, or surface run off.

Better than Soaker Hoses

Additionally, the technology used in today’s drip emitters dramatically improves the efficiency over soaker hoses. Today’s drip systems use pressure compensating emitters. With a soaker hose, more water is applied  where the soaker hose connects to the hose bib than at the end of the soaker hose. With pressure compensation, water is distributed evenly throughout the entire drip irrigation system.

Click here to watch a video.

 Stop Sending Money Down the Drain

A properly installed drip irrigation will save you time and money. It is less expensive than you think. Systems start at $100 installed. We can use your hose bib or rain barrel.

Drip is the perfect solution to watering your vegetable garden, flower garden or newly planted trees.

Your garden will thank you for it! 

Contact us today at (641) 209-1891

Click here to email us.

Putting Green to Work by American Rivers

Economic Recovery Investments for Clean and Reliable WaterPutting Green to Work by American Rivers

As many of you who have heard me speak, you know my passion for developing sustainable, environmentally friendly solutions to our nation’s water infrastructure. Stormwater from rainfall events are the biggest source of pollution in America. The civil engineers call it non-point source pollution.

In 2006, the American Society of Civil Engineers graded our nation’s water infrastructure D-. The lowest grade of all the infrastructure categories examined. Although this grade is unacceptably low, the next  lowest grade is F – Failure. An “F” is simply unacceptable. Without access to clean, sanitary water supplies people perish. Click here to see the 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.

American Rivers, funded by the Park Foundation, the Kresege Foundation, the William Penn Foundation, Keith Campbel Foundation, and the Turner Foundation, has created report which examines the efforts of nineteen states with “bright green” projects. Here are some key findings:

  • The demand for funding is far, far greater than currently provided on both the Federal and state level.
  • Future funding should be targeted to “bright green” projects. “Bright green” project types includes:
    • Bioswales
    • Green Roofs
    • Permeable Paving
    • Rain Gardens
    • Riparian Habitate Resotoration
    • Wetlands Restoration
  • States must act quickly to remove barriers, eg. statutes, regulation, and policies, that are roadblocks to integrated approaches to our communities’ implementation of infrastructure improvements.
  • An integrated approach is necessary to understand the complete benefit of green infrastructure.

For me, the most important elements are the job creation and economic output.

A $10 billion investment in water efficient projects would produce a total economic output of $25-28 billion and create 150,000 to 220,000 jobs.

For every dollar invested the return is $2.65. It doesn’t take a financial wizard to understand this concept. Investing in green infrastructure is good for the economy, the environment and the communities in which we live.

There is a tremendous opportunity to combine our existing gray infrastructure with newer green infrastructure creating sustainable communities.

Click here to download the report, “Putting Green to Work.”





Brave New World: Trends & Opportunities in the Emerging Green Environment


Recently, I spoke to the Independent Turf and Ornamental Distributors Association in Nashville, Tennessee

I created two presentations for this group of landscape industry professionals.


Brave New World: Trends & Opportunities in the Emerging Green Environment(ITODA)


Over the last two and half years we have experienced some of the greatest changes in the history of this country. The economy is only part of it. Every organization has the power and the talent when unleashed will create dramatic change. Here are the key points:
  • Excess Capacity: Competition is increasing and margins are shrinking
  • The Impact of Local Businesses on the Economy
  • The EPA: Friend or Foe
  • The Impact of Downsizing on Employee Engagement
  • The Dramatically Increasing Presence of Women in Work
  • Transforming Your Business by Creating Value

View more presentations from Tom Barrett.
The current state and trends of the Landscape, golf Course, and Sports Turf Industry. How we stand out, where we rank, and how we are heard. You will be challenged in this provocative and sometimes controversial presentation to do things differently.  Tom Barrett is a national speaker and author. His presentations empower people to become masters of change. Learn how to grow your business without busting the bank. Here are the key points:

  • Business is rapidly changing
  • Opportunities exist in areas unavailable five years ago
  • Customers have different needs and require a new approach
  • Companies investing in marketing are growing

View more presentations from Tom Barrett.

I feel the presentations were incredibly helpful to the folks in the audience. Based on conversations I had with audience members, some of the points they found most interesting were:

  • The dramatically changing social environment, especially women in the workforce.
  • Getting sales people to make more sales calls.
  • Emerging opportunities in green infrastructure and the role landscaping will play in remediating our environment.

I truly enjoyed speaking for an energetic and enthusiastic crowd at Independent Turf and Ornamental Distributors Association. I hope I can return soon, and I look forward to my next speaking engagement on January 12, 2012 at the Green Industry Expo in Indianapolis. I will be leading a panel of experts on landscape industry trends.

Sustainable Site Development : Rain Gardens & Bioswales Presentation at the Center For Green Technology

The Rain Garden at Chicago Center for Green Technology, Chicago, Illinios

I had the pleasure of presenting “Constructing Rain Gardens & Bioswales” at the Chicago Center for Green Technology (CCGT) on Thursday, September 29th. The audience, between 30 to 40 people, was great.

We talked about stormwater issues and toured the rain garden at the Chicago Center for Green Technology. Steve Pincuspy, Director of CCGT, led the tour and did an excellent job of explaining the effectiveness of the rain gardens in mitigating the local stormwater problem.

The presentation was followed by over thirty minutes of questions.

Here is a copy of the presentation:


Windridge Condos Breaks Ground on Rain Garden

Windridge Condominium Homes to Build Eco-Friendly Rain Garden 

Windridge Condominium Homes Main GateIndianapolis, Indiana—Windridge Condominium Homes, located in the Emerson and Fall Creek Parkway area, has announced that it will build a groundbreaking rain garden. Not only will this garden be beautiful, it will also help to alleviate existing flooding and moisture issues in the neighborhood.

Originally built more than 30 years ago, challenges associated with stormwater drainage have confronted Windridge from its inception.  While the original developers installed traditional storm drains and conveyance systems in the neighborhood, ongoing development in the surrounding area has increased the frequency and volume of stormwater flow around and through Windridge.  While various solutions have been implemented over the years to control flooding and standing water issues, the neighborhood’s infrastructure has been unable to handle the more than 91 million  gallons of rain water that fall on the neighborhood annually.

The rain garden will not only reduce runoff into nearby Fall Creek, it will also improve local water quality by capturing pollution that normally contributes to algae growth, and improve the overall ecology of the local water systems.

 “Rain gardens are a green way to solve many traditional storm water problems,” said Tom Barrett, owner of Green Water Infrastructure and a consultant on the project. “They’re also a great retrofit for many older, more established communities with persistent drainage issues.”

Fischer Design, an Indianapolis-based landscape architecture firm, will design the rain garden. Green Water Infrastructure in Westfield will provide green consulting. TERRA Site Development in Westfield will provide the civil engineering for the project. The project is expected to break ground in September 2011.

# # #


About Windridge Condominiums:

The Windridge community is a unique collection of two hundred and twenty one homes located in a natural setting along Fall Creek in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Touring the property one easily recognizes our respect for the natural environment.  You will see a number of wild animals, birds, countless plants, and trees.  The Windridge community takes pride in maintaining our natural surroundings.


About Fischer Design, LLC:

Fischer Design is a landscape architecture design firm focused on the creative integration of man-made and natural environments promoting environmentally responsible, sustainable, functional, and aesthetically beautiful design solutions. For additional information about Fischer Design, please visit


About Green Water Infrastructure:

Green Water Infrastructure is a consulting company that integrates water resources for sustainable site development. Their goal is to utilize one hundred percent of the on-site water resources at a site. Green Water saves communities money by combining green infrastructure with gray infrastructure and new technology with existing technology to create sustainable growth — environmentally and socially. For more information, please visit


About TERRA Site Development, Inc.:

TERRA Site Development, Inc. (TERRA) is a site development consulting firm that provides specialized investigation, engineering design, and testing services for property and projects in all aspects of development.  Assisting clients regardless of what stage their project is in – TERRA provides environmental and geotechnical assessment before property is purchased, civil engineering design and permitting assistance prior to construction, and materials testing and inspection during buildout.  Located in Westfield and Indianapolis, additional information about TERRA can be found at

Upcoming Presentation – Water Efficient Landscaping: From Airports to Your Own Backyard (2.0 GBCI CE hours)

  • 16 June 2011USGBC Illinois Logo
  • 5:30 PM – 8:00 PM
  • Ball Horticulture,
    622 Town Road
    West Chicago, IL 60185


  • This discounted price is for full-time students only.

    Register Here

Please note that registration is non-refundable. If you experience any registration difficulties or have questions please contact Karin Barden at 312-245-8300 x2.


Join the USGBC – Illinois Chapter’s West Suburban Branch for an educational program about stormwater management and water efficient landscaping.

This event has been submitted for 2.0 GBCI CE hours.

This event will cover issues and solutions related to water – efficiency and management.  The panel will identify typical considerations for plant selection, challenges in rural environments, and principals of water efficient landscaping.  Issues related to stormwater and how the landscape can remedy related environmental issues will be presented, as well as an overview of the US EPA’s WaterSense program will be explained as an example of possible solutions to efficiently use and protect water supplies.

Case studies of gardens planted at Northwind Perennial Farm, Gurnee Park District, Olbrich Botanic Gardens, and University of Chicago will showcase projects that have reduced maintenance costs with the usage of native plantings.  A case study of the O’Hare Modernization Project and the sustainable plantings incorporated there will also be showcased.


  • John Antonoglu, Associate Vice President, Primera Engineers, Ltd.
  • Tom Barrett, President, Green Water Infrastructure, Inc.
  • Roy Diblik, Co-Owner, Northwind Perennial Farm
  • Cary McElhinney, WaterSense Coordinator, US EPA Region 5, Water Division


  • Sharon Waller, Environmental Engineer, Sustainable Systems LLC Consulting


  • 5:30 – 5:50  Ball Horticulture Garden Tour, Networking, Registration & Light Appetizers
  • 5:50 – 6:00  Introductions
  • 6:00 – 6:25  Plant Selection & Landscape Design
  • 6:25 – 6:50  Stormwater Management
  • 6:50 – 7:15  O’Hare Case Study
  • 7:15 – 7:30  US EPA’s Water Sense Program
  • 7:30 – 7:40  Recap & Formative Assessment
  • 7:40 – 8:00  Questions & Answers

Oak Sponsor

For directions to Ball Horticulture in West Chicago, click the following link –Directions to Ball in West Chicago.pdf.

For parking instructions, click the following link –Ball Campus Parking Map.pdf.


Rain Garden Construction at Frazee Gardens Presentation

April 23, 2011 (Brownburg, Indiana)

Frazee Gardens hosted a special presentation on the need for rain gardens in our community. Kathy Dillon, Wastewater Superintendent for the Town of Brownsburg gave an update on the the City’s stormwater plans.

Below are the three presentations.

Cleaning up the Dirty Truth about Water

Tom Barrett of Green Water Infrastructure began by sharing with you the dirty facts about what happens to surrounding Indianapolis waterways almost every time it rains. After you understand the limitations we are faced with relying on our current storm drain system, you will begin to see why rain gardens are such a vital necessity in our urban landscape.

Here is a copy of Tom’s Presentation on Stormwater and Rain Gardens:

Native Plants for Rain Gardens

Ronda Fischer of Fischer Design, LLC will followed with a discussion about the benefits of using native plants in rain gardens. Native plants are already adapted to Indiana’s extremes in temperature and precipitation requiring less maintenance. They also improve infiltration, drainage and water retention while providing important wildlife habitat.

Here is a copy of Ronda’s Presentation on Native Plants for use in Rain Gardens:

Constructing Rain Gardens

Frazee Gardens installed a rain garden on site for homeowners to view as well as native plants that work best in rain gardens for our area.

Here is a copy of the Frazee Gardens’ Presentation on Constructing their Rain Garden:

Rain Garden Construction from Frazee Gardens (April 23, 2011) 

View more presentations from Tom Barrett.
Here are some comments from the participants:
I have a better understanding about native plants and how to build a rain garden.”
– Loren and Sandy Hunt
I would like to learn more about the relationship between the environment and human health.”
– Sarah Wood
My favorite part was having an actual rain garden and multiple speakers. Thank you for having the presentation.”

Green Infrastructure: Creating Sustainable Sites & Livable Communities

Tom’s next presentation, entitled “Green Infrastructure: Creating Sustainable Sites & Livable Communities” is May 12th at the Chicago Center for Green Technology. There is no charge for this presention. You can Click Here to Register.