Madison Installs Rain Gardens To Remedy Runoff

Aug. 15, 2006

The city of Madison, Wis., installed new gardens along Adams Street in order to cure the neighborhood’s runoff problems.

The plants consist of purple cone flowers, brown-eyed Susans and other native species. The roots are about 15 feet deep, and create channels that let storm water flow into the ground from streets, sidewalks and rooftops. The water then ends up in the aquifer that supplies drinking water to the city.

Nine different homeowners on the street have agreed to have the rain gardens installed next to their properties.

According to, the project was initiated by Friends of Lake Wingra. The idea was inspired by Seattle’s Street Edge Alternatives Project, which used natural landscaping to absorb water on a street that was without curbs or gutters.

Friends of Lake Wingra received a grant from the state Department of Natural Resources to support the project.

This is the first residential rain garden sponsored by the city, though rain gardens have already appeared in a few local parks.

In addition to fixing the runoff problem, the gardens also collect silt from construction that used to flow into nearby lakes and reduce the amount of other pollutants, such as phosphorus.