Photo by David Folweiler

RainWise rain gardens a hit in Ballard

When it comes to Seattle Public Utilities’ RainWise rain garden program, it’s hard to find a dissatisfied customer.

You can ask Steve Severin. “It looks beautiful, but it’s also functional,” he said. “It’s doing something. It’s really cool.”

rain garden

Photo by Zachariah Bryan

Or you can ask Beth Humphries. “I love the garden.”

rain garden

Photo by Zachariah Bryan

You might even ask that one lady whose name this reporter forgot to write down (we've been told now that her name is Theresa Olsen). She wasn’t able to get a rain garden because she had no soil for it, but she was able to get a rebate on three two-hundred gallon cisterns. ”I am so psyched! I am excited for this summer to use them (for gardening).”

rain garden

Photo by Zachariah Bryan

Even Groundswell NW President David Folweiler, who certainly has high standards when it comes to environmental-friendly design, gave his stamp of approval. “We’re interested in the environmental benefits of it, primarily, but we also have it for the beautification of our front yard.”

rain garden

Photo by Jerry Gay

Rain gardens are just one of the tools SPU is using to combat the combined sewer overflow problem in Ballard. The gardens use porous soil to soak water, slowing it down, keeping it from overflowing pipes and polluting the Puget Sound.

The Seattle Public Utilities RainWise program rebates homeowners up to 100 percent of the cost of professionally installing a rain garden, a cistern, or both in their yard. The average rebate is around $3,500, but if residents wish they can spend some of their own money to expand the design. For the program, residents work with private contractors to design and install the gardens, which allows for some creative control.

However, only residents within a certain area of the Ballard Basin are qualified for the program. Check here to find out if you're part of it.

So far, at least from what the Ballard News-Tribune has heard, there have been zero complaints about the gardens.

“We haven’t heard of any that haven’t worked,” said Jenny Heins, president of Sustainable Ballard, which has a contract to help promote the RainWise program. “Some people can’t put anything in to begin with, but they know that before anything happens.”

Folweiler said that he has had at most an inch of standing water, and that was during the heaviest of rains during a record-hitting November.

“A lot of people were reporting that they didn’t even have standing water during the biggest rains,” Heins said.

Sustainable Ballard is hosting a workshop tonight, Feb. 7, 7:30 p.m. at the Ballard Library. Register for it here.

Sustainable Ballard also has plenty of information on their website, including a virtual tour, a live walking tour and more. Check it out at:

You can also learn more at the City of Seattle's website at:

rain garden

Photo courtesy of Sustainable Ballard

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