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Household Stormwater Practices


BMP-9 // A bioretention system and rain garden installed outside the RWP Casino Entrance. Image Credit: Ryan Kopp

Individual contributions can make a huge difference. Green stormwater infrastructure in areas like Roger Williams Park contribute to reducing pollution in Providence’s bodies of water. But, community members’ efforts can also prevent stormwater from becoming heavily polluted. For example, a project by the Green Infrastructure Coalition in Pleasant Valley was successful because community members were involved in installing stormwater management infrastructure in their neighborhoods. If you would like to get notified of similar projects, please contact PSIC manager Ryan Kopp at rkopp@asri.org and check our website and Facebook for more updates.


Providence community members can become stewards of the RWP ponds by employing a few accessible practices, listed below. Other sustainable efforts, such as reducing waste production and not overusing fertilizer, can prevent stormwater from carrying excessive amounts of nutrients into the RWP ponds.


According to the Environmental Protection Agency, six ways to reduce runoff from residential properties in the RWP watershed are to plant a rain garden or trees, disconnect/redirect downspouts, use a rain barrel to capture rain, reduce impervious surfaces, and plant a green roof.


Homeowners can plant rain gardens or trees in order to collect rainwater. A rain garden is a slightly depressed area that is planted with grasses and flowering perennials. These plantings filter runoff, and stormwater soaks into the ground. The rain garden plants could be used to attract pollinators or other helpful wildlife. Information about making your own rain garden can be found at this link.


Planting trees can also prevent stormwater erosion and high levels of runoff. Besides providing environmental benefits such as cooling during the hotter months, tree canopies reduce soil erosion by catching falling rain. A tree’s roots take up water and promote infiltration of stormwater into the soil. For this reason, the Providence Stormwater Innovation Center is working on tree filter projects in the park for the coming year.


BMP-3B // Another rain garden in Roger Williams Park. Image Credit: Ryan Kopp.

Disconnecting or redirecting downspouts is helpful because downspouts often guide water to impervious surfaces such as driveways. As a result, rainwater from the roof of a house flows directly into the street and into catch basins. Once the catch basins overflow, polluted stormwater flows directly into the ponds. Downspouts may also be connected directly to a pipe in the ground, which channels the water into a sanitary sewer or storm drain system. By redirecting or disconnecting the downspout, water flows onto a lawn or garden and soaks into the soil. It can also flow into an installed rain barrel. One example of a product that could help to divert downspout water away from a house and the street and into a rain garden is the Zip Hinge, which can be used to extend a stormwater downspout. PVC extensions, which can be found at home goods stores such as Home Depot, can also be added to the downspout, with installation instructions here. It is advisable to check the surrounding land to determine the best location for the downspout to be redirected, in order to avoid property damage or unsafe conditions. Downspouts can also be fully disconnected, as shown by the following guide.



A downspout redirected into a rain barrel. Image Credit: Roger Mommaerts - Flickr.

Setting up a rain barrel is another sustainable practice that can also be a fun family activity. Rain barrels collect rainwater, which can later be used to water lawns or gardens. They can also be used to visibly demonstrate the water levels produced by storms.

Rain barrels can be purchased online or at local home and garden supply stores. Some retailers that sell rain barrels are Home Depot, Amazon, Walmart, and The Rain Barrel Depot. A helpful information guide about buying a rain barrel can be found on the Tractor Supply Company website. Rain barrels can be decorated as well, for example through painting or stenciling. These decorating activities are fun for all ages. A guide to painting rain barrels can be found here.


As a quick reminder, before using collected stormwater on edible plants, it is important to consider the source of the water and the fact that runoff may collect chemicals and bacteria from birds or animals.

Another environmentally friendly option is to reduce the impervious surface area on a property. Stormwater flows easily over impervious surfaces and into ponds and streams without being filtered. Pervious pavers or asphalt allow stormwater to soak through them and onto lower levels of gravel or soil. The pavers can remove sediment or other pollutants and decrease stormwater runoff. An added benefit is that using permeable pavement can reduce the demand for road salt or spending on storm drainage construction. This document gives an overview of the applications and benefits of permeable pavers.


A final idea for homes and apartment buildings is building green roofs. Since the roofs of most buildings are impervious surfaces, water can flow directly from them onto the street or ground. Comparatively, the plant layer of a green roof directly absorbs water. Green roofs provide a quiet atmosphere and a place to grow plants in busy urban areas. They also facilitate evaporation and can be used to reduce building energy usage.


Green roofs can reduce heat islands and cool buildings due to evapotranspiration, or the movement of water from the soil both by evaporation and transpiration (when water exits through the pores of a plant's leaves).This process decreases the demand for energy used to cool buildings during the warmer months. Green roofs can also insulate buildings in colder weather. More information about green roofs can be found here.


Thank you for reading! No matter how you want to get involved, your contributions make a difference. Please check our website for more information about sustainable practices and PSIC events at Roger Williams Park.


Call us:

401-949-5454 

ext 3044

Find us: 

Providence Stormwater Innovation Center

Roger Williams Park

1000 Elmwood Ave

Providence, Rhode Island  02907

RKopp@asri.org