Rain Gardens for Resiliency

Rain Gardens for Resiliency

Committee: Environment

Total Cost: $150,000

Potential Locations: Huron @ Cushing, Chestnut Street, Webster Avenue


Short Description:

Green infrastructure has never looked so good! Bioswales are engineered gardens with special soil and plants to filter and absorb stormwater. They are a cost-effective, beautiful way to keep our water clean and protect our city from floods.

Long Description:

When rain falls in the city, instead of soaking into the earth, it meets cold, hard concrete and picks up pollutants as it runs straight into the sewers.  Stormwater runoff carries trash, bacteria, and pollutants that can overwhelm treatment facilities, contaminate our rivers and streams, and flood our streets.

Bioswales and rain gardens are a surprisingly simple yet effective solution: essentially hardy plants planted in specially engineered layers of soil and stone, typically by roads and parking lots. The microorganisms in the soil digest oils and grease in runoff, and the plants take up phosphorus that can kill life in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. The whole infrastructure together slows down excess stormwater which can otherwise overwhelm our sewer system.

In the face of climate change and more extreme weather, we need to get stormwater under control. There are currently 9 Bioswales throughout Cambridge, and new ones can be added alongside ongoing road improvements or where the city is most prone to flooding. [Note, Bioswales will be sited in non-parking areas.]



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  • Judy Mortner
    commented 2018-12-03 12:17:53 -0500
    Yes! Rain garden gets my vote and any other “environmental” proposals that can help protect precious natural resources. I also proposed something to city councilor and suggested for inclusion here and got no response, it was: “No idling” signs, strategically posted around the city. So many people sitting in their cars on the phone, etc while their engines idle, adding to the pollution! I’ve seen signs like this elsewhere and wish Cambridge would get on board.
  • Brad Kay.Goodman
    commented 2018-11-27 10:39:05 -0500
    I love the idea of rain gardens! More gardens, happier people
  • Carolyn Stonewell
    commented 2018-11-26 18:34:43 -0500
    Why can’t we have a rain garden like this in the ugly concrete strip between 2 lanes of traffic on Mass. Ave between Harvard and Porter Squares. I have suggested this in he past to a councilman beginning several years ago —even sending photos of possible designs—and my requests have been completely ignored. I love the idea of rain gardens for this area, and would appreciate a response from you. Thanks. Carolyn Stonewell, Arlington Street, Cambridge.
  • Beth Redmond
    commented 2018-11-26 11:23:53 -0500
    Never heard of bioswales until now. Great idea and gets my vote for PB!