Portland Real Estate Insider: Portlanders Get Green With Rain Gardens and More

We’re not going to lie, Portland can be a rainy city. This time of year, the weather gets serious, but in the true creative spirit of Portland, residents are taking the meteorological lemons and turning them into lemonade. There are many ways to harness the rainwater so common to the Pacific Northwest, saving residents money, resources, and the environment along the way. Rain gardens – garden areas set up to catch rainfall coming off of roofs – are a creative utilization of the Portland weather, easing the burden on the Portland storm-water and sewer systems, and can lead to savings on utility bills. Installing Rain Gardens and other forms of rain water capture leads to discounts in the Storm Water Management portion of your water and sewer bill! Portland was one of the first American cities to attempt to reward and educate residents about storm-water management.

Many options are available to manage storm water on residential properties, and Portland offers technical advice and generous subsidies to curious residents. Options include:

• Disconnecting roof downspouts, allowing storm water to run across lawns and gardens. (Soil is typically more porous on the east side of town than the clay-filled soil common on the west side. Given this, Portland offers financial incentives for disconnecting down spouts only on the east side of the river, roughly between 42nd Avenue and 82nd Avenue. Homeowners and renters there can receive $53 for each downspout they disconnect.)

• Installing eco-roofs, which use soil and plants to absorb rainfall on the rooftop.

• Adding rain gardens to capture storm water, allowing it to soak into the ground and evaporate (can absorb 30 percent to 70 percent of the rainfall, greatly reducing the amount that must be managed by other means. The Bureau of Environmental Services currently offers homeowners $5 per square foot as an incentive to built eco-roofs.)

• Building underground drywells, gravel pits and soakage trenches to slow the flow of storm water while it soaks into the ground.

• Installing rain barrels, cisterns and other tanks to hold storm water for later reuse, such as flushing toilets or watering lawns and gardens.

These installations save money on utilities, contribute to beautiful green gardens and lawns, and also help protect our Northwest Environment. Heavy sewer capacity leads to increased pollution of our fragile rivers and streams, home to many animals and native plants. When storm water is diverted from the main sewer lines, the rivers stay cleaner and animals are able to stay in their natural habitats.

Since 1999, Portland has required new construction homes in the Portland Metro Area to include storm water management tools and systems, and residential renovation projects that add over 500 square feet of paved area to the property are also required to accommodate storm water management resources.

Interested in learning more about Storm Water Management? Portland residents can get technical advice and information about financial incentives by dialing the city Bureau of Environmental Services, at 503-823-7378.

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