WaterRICH- Water Recycling, Infiltration, and Conservation for the Home

Do you want to reduce your potable water use? Improve rain water management or drainage issues on your property? Build a rain garden? Install rain barrels? The WaterRICH Program can help.

WaterRICH is a RiverLink Initiative to assist homeowners in understanding rainwater management.  Through the program, RiverLink provides an on-line resource designed specifically for smaller sites and private individuals.  WaterRICH will teach you how to harvest rainwater, create garden features which promote water seeping into the soil (stormwater features), and reduce outside water needs.

See what WaterRICH can do for you:

  • Reduce use of potable water on landscapes, and your water bill.
  • Increase property values and prevent or fix existing water issues.
  • Assist in reducing pollution into our creeks and the French Broad River, which serves over 1 million people with drinking water and is widely used for recreation.
  • Access the online handbook with step-by step instructions for creating a WaterRICH landscape.
  • Learn to design and construct water quality features, such as raingardens, and install rain barrels, through hands-on workshops and trainings.

Getting started:

Step 1: Understanding your landscape
Understanding your landscape and how water flows across your property is the first step. Start by downloading and completing the Site Inventory Questionnaire. This will help determine the best places to build a rain garden on your property.

Step 2: Conduct an Infiltration Test
Once you determine the options for locations of rain gardens, you will need to conduct a percolation test. This is a simple way to determine if the soil in the selected areas will drain well enough to construct a rain garden. Follow the steps below or download instructions to conduct a Infiltration Test Here.

Drain Time Appropriate BMP
< 12 hours Quick-draining rain garden
12 hours—3 days Standard rain garden
> 3 days Consider a wetland garden or contact a professional

Step 3: Determining your rain water runoff volume.
Typically rain gardens and other water quality features in landscapes are sized to capture and treat the first inch of rain. Although there are certain times, like wet basements, where a homeowner will want to capture more than the first inch of rain fall, therefore knowing the amount of rainwater that drains from and through your property helps determine the size of rain gardens or the number of rain barrels you will need at your site. The simple 10-10-10 rule will determine the area necessary to capture 1” of rain fall if the rain garden is 10” deep; this should be your minimum size. Use the formula below or download our Stormwater Calculator here.

  1. Determine the area draining to the rain garden. (Effective Drainage Area, EDA)
    1. EDA (sq. ft.) = Impervious area (sq. ft.) + 10% of Pervious area
      1. Measure area of impervious surface.
      2. Measure area of pervious surface.
  2. Multiply pervious area time 10% (0.10)
  3. Add to Impervious area total.
  4. 10% of this total is the sq. ft. area needed for a rain garden 10 inches deep.

At my house I have 1000 sq. ft. of impervious area that drains to the area I want to install a rain garden. It consists of my driveway and half of the roof, which drains on this side of the house, along with about 200 sq. ft. of landscaped pervious area.

EDA (sq. ft.) = Impervious area (sq. ft.) + 10% of Pervious area
EDA = 1000 + (200 x 0.10)
EDA = 1000 + 20
EDA = 1020

EDA x 0.10 = Rain garden Area
1020 x 0.10 = 102 sq. ft.

Step 4: Building the rain garden or water quality feature.
A rain garden is a landscaped bowl-like depression that captures and infiltrates water into the soil. To construct your rain garden define the area and edge of garden, then excavate 12” of soil in this area, sloping down from the edges. Construct the water inflow; this can be an above ground swale that directs water over land to the rain garden or through an underground 4” or 6” plastic corrugated pipe, often from downspouts. Make sure inflow is 8” higher than the over flow (out flow). If using corrugated pipe, the bottom of the pipe is a minimum of 6” above the out flow.
Download rain garden construction instructions.

Step 5: Planting your rain garden.
Download the plant list here! This is a list of native species which can be planted within the rain garden of other water quality feature. These plants are suited for wet areas and help breakdown pollutants within the rain water runoff.

Step 6: Maintaining your rain garden.
Proper maintenance and up keep of your rain garden or water quality feature is critical to the long term success of your landscape.

  1. Remove weeds, debris, trash, and maintain plantings.
  2. Remove any sediment that enters the rain garden as needed.
  3. Inspect thoroughly for damage after a heavy rain event.
  4. Check often for stability or breaches.
  5. Maintain a 3″ depth of mulch.

Rain garden Alternatives:
Many residents have site constraints or specific water issues in which a rain garden is not suitable as an independent garden. Below are a variety of garden styles to serve as alternatives to a Rain Garden. As well as, water harvesting, earthworks and conveyance mechanisms used in conjunction with these gardens.

  • Rain Garden Alternatives
    • Linear Rain Gardens – Swales
      • Dry Swale
      • Wet Swale
    • Wetlands
  • Compatible Systems
    • Check Dams
    • Berms and Swales
    • Trench Drains
    • Rain Barrels and Cisterns
      • Sizing Your Rain Barrel Needs

Program Resources:

The Handbook is designed to walk a homeowner through a step-by-step process to learn how to manage the stormwater on their property to maximize reuse, infiltration and conservation.  Along with the handbook, RiverLink offers a series of workshops to assist homeowners in this process, including workshops on site analysis, how to calculate your stormwater runoff, BMP selection and construction.

Download the entire Manual:
WaterRICH Handbook – email comments to  WaterResources@riverlink.org.




Frequently Asked Questions:

Where do I start?
Right here.  You can download the entire handbook below. Then if you are interested in becoming certified call the Watershed Resources Manager at 828-252-8474 x. 14 or email waterResources@riverlink.org.

How and why do I do a Site Inventory and Analysis? 
Site Inventory and Analysis are critical steps in planning and designing your stormwater management system. It includes social, environmental, and constructed features.  It can identify problems such as erosion, drainage issues, and unsightly elements, or identify positive attributes such as specimen plants or a good view.  You can follow the step -by-step process in Chapter 1-2 Site Inventory and Analysis.

How do I tell how well the soil drains on my property?
To determine soil porosity follow the step-by-step instructions in Chapter 2-3 Percolation Test.

How do I measure the steepness of my property?
To measure the slope of your property follow the step-by-step instructions in Chapter 2-2 Measuring Slope.

How do I calculate my stormwater runoff volume?
You can learn how much rain water runs off or through your property in Chapter 1-3 Calculating your Stormwater Runoff Volume.

How do I select the correct stormwater BMP? 
For assistance in selecting the correct BMP review the information in Chapter 1-4 BMP Selection.

How do I construct berms and swales?
To build a berm and swale systems check out Chapter 3-1 Berms and Swales.

How do I build a check dam?
To build a check dam review Chapter 3-2 Check Dams.

How do I construct an enhanced swale? 
You can follow the step -by-step instructions in Chapter 3-3 Enhanced Swales.

How do I install French drains?
To measure the slope of your property follow the step-by-step instructions in Chapter 3-4 French Drains.

How do I build a rain barrel or cistern?
To measure the slope of your property follows the step-by-step instructions in Chapter 3-5 Rain Barrels.

How do I build a rain garden?
To determine soil porosity follows the step-by-step instructions in Chapter 3-6 Rain Gardens.

What if I want to build a bio-retention, wetland or install pervious pavers? 
We suggest contacting a profession for assistance with these specific types of stormwater BMPs, to find out more information see Chapter 4-1 Consults the Experts.

Where do I find contractors or professionals for assistance?
Check out this list of other businesses who may be able to help.  Appendix C

What plants are good to use in stormwater BMPs?
Check out our suggested Plant List.

Upcoming Rain Barrel Workshop

Interested in an affordable, recycled rain barrel? Join RiverLink staff for a hands-on Rain Barrel Workshop on Saturday, July 29th from 10-1[...]

Get more information »

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