Rain Gardens for a Cleaner Shoal Creek
October 12, 2023 | By Shoal Creek Conservancy
Rain Gardens: Let This Sink In
Did you know that rain gardens can filter out up to 90% of the pollutants carried along in stormwater runoff? Rain gardens are low-lying, bowl-shaped gardens designed to catch, absorb, and filter stormwater runoff – and they do valuable work in urban areas like Austin. In addition to filtering stormwater before it enters the water table and our local creeks and rivers, rain gardens also help to reduce flooding by capturing stormwater and allowing it to infiltrate slowly, instead of pouring into our local waterways all at once.
Rain Gardens for a Cleaner Shoal Creek
Our beloved Shoal Creek watershed is surfaced in 54% impervious cover. Any rain that lands there is unable to soak into the ground, and instead rushes across these hard surfaces, washing contaminants from roads and parking lots into Shoal Creek.
Shoal Creek suffers from poor water quality and flooding, among other issues that commonly face urban creeks. Stormwater flows entering the creek carry high levels of nitrates, sediment, and other contaminants. Shoal Creek Conservancy hopes to restore Shoal Creek to a fishable, swimmable creek, and our guiding document is the Shoal Creek Watershed Action Plan. Developed collaboratively with scientists and community stakeholders, our Watershed Action Plan was accepted by the US EPA in 2021, and lays out a series of science-based steps that can be taken to improve the health of Shoal Creek and address the challenges it faces. One of the priorities outlined in the Watershed Action Plan is the installation of more rain gardens in the Shoal Creek watershed!
To meet this need, Shoal Creek Conservancy is partnering with the City of Austin to install more rain gardens in the Shoal Creek watershed. SCC facilitates community adoptions of rain gardens via our Rain Garden Adoption program, through which we coordinate services and supplies and guide volunteers during the planting and maintenance phases of their adopted rain gardens.
In 2022, we facilitated our very first Rain Garden Adoption of the rain garden at Shoal Creek Boulevard and Woodview Avenue. This rain garden was constructed by the Austin Transportation Department in 2020. In June of 2022, we began to guide our neighborhood adopter group to install native plantings in the garden and to maintain them. The deep-rooted native species that we are adding to the Woodview rain garden will benefit stormwater infiltration, and also create good habitat for a variety of pollinators in the Shoal Creek Watershed.
On Sunday, October 22nd, we will be hosting a public celebration of our adopter group’s hard work at the Woodview Rain Garden! All are welcome to join us for tacos and coffee, learn more about rain gardens and see how you can get involved. Which brings us to our next topic:
We need YOU to adopt a rain garden!
This winter, the City of Austin’s Transportation and Public Works Department will be installing three new rain gardens in the Shoal Creek Watershed (all three along Shoal Creek Boulevard, at its intersections with Great Oaks Parkway, Twin Oaks Drive, and Greenlawn Parkway.) This means that more stormwater in the Shoal Creek Watershed will be captured, held, and filtered before it reaches the creek. This goes a long way towards our goals for a healthier Shoal Creek.
We are currently working to assemble adopter groups who will plant and take care of these three new rain gardens. If you live in the area, enjoy gardening (or would like to learn!), want to spend a little time with your family, friends, or neighbors, and seek to have a positive impact on your local community and environment, please email email@example.com to sign up! With plenty of support and guidance from Shoal Creek Conservancy, adopter groups will begin planting their rain gardens in February or March of 2024. Join us!
The Shoal Creek Watershed Action Plan is a cooperative project funded in part by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality through a Clean Water Act, Section 319(h) Nonpoint Source Management grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.