Water Recycling, Infiltration, and Conservation for the Home

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.  The WaterRICH program is an easily accessible, comprehensive resource for understanding how to manage water in the residential setting.  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.  The Program offers hands-on workshops that teach site analysis and introduce design tools needed to select water quality and infiltration mechanisms to use right in your backyard.

The WaterRICH Program is a program built to help residents understand how they can be good stewards of our natural resources. The goal of the project is to increase infiltration of stormwater into the ground and the water table, reduce the use of potable water, improve water quality in the French Broad River Watershed and reduce pressure on the existing stormwater system.

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.
  • Access to design professionals.
  • Have your home certified WaterRICH.

Download the Handbook

Getting started:

Step 1: Understanding your landscapeStep 2: Conduct an Infiltration TestStep 3: Determining your rain water runoff volume.Step 4: Building the rain garden or water quality feature.Step 5: Planting your rain garden.Step 6: Maintaining your rain gardenRain garden Alternatives

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.

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

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.

A rain garden a landscaped bowl-like depression that captures and infiltrate 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.

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.

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.

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

Attend Workshops and Events

WaterRICH workshops and free informational presentations will be posted on RiverLink’s Calendar as they become available.  Check out the calendar or sign up for our quarterly e-newsletter here for updates.


Frequently Asked Questions:

Where do I start?

Right here.  You can download the entire handbook above and, if you have any questions, contact the Watershed Resources Coordinator at 828-252-8474 ext.14 or at waterresources@riverlink.org.

How and why do I perform a site inventory and analysis?

Site Inventory and Analysis are critical steps in planning and designing your stormwater management system.  They involve taking stock of the existing conditions on your property, including social, environmental, and structural features.  They also identify problems such as erosion, drainage issues, or unsightly elements, and identify positives attributes such as specimen plants or a good view.  You can follow the step-by-step process in Chapter 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 slope of my property?

To measure the slope of your property, follow the step-by-step instructions in Chapter 4:  Measuring Slope.

How do I calculate my stormwater runoff volume?

You can learn how much rainwater runs off or through your property in Chapter 3:  Calculating Your Stormwater Runoff.

How do I select the correct stormwater control measure (SCM)?

After calculating the volume of stormwater runoff on your site and completing a site inventory and analysis, you can review Locating and Selecting the SCM to determine which best fits your situation.

How do I construct a berm-and-swale complex?

If you have decided that a berm-and-swale complex is the best SCM for your site, you can review Berm and Swale Complex for a step-by-step process on how to build and maintain this system.

How do I construct an enhanced swale?

If you have decided that an enhanced swale is the best SCM for your site, or you wish to enhance the swales in your berm-and-swale complex, you can review Enhanced Swales for a step-by-step process on how to build and maintain one.

How do I build a check dam?

If you have decided that a check dam is the best SCM for your site, or you wish to add one to your berm-and-swale complex, please review Check Dams for a step-by-step process on how to build and maintain them.

How do I install a French drain?

If you have decided that a French drain is the best SCM for your site, you can review French Drains for a step-by-step process on how to build and maintain one.

How do I build a rain barrel?

If you would like to add a rain barrel to your site, you can review Rain Barrels for a step-by-step process on how to install and maintain one.

How do I build a rain garden?

If you have decided that a rain garden is the best SCM for your site, you can review Rain Gardens for a step-by-step process on how to install and maintain one.

What if I want to install a bioretention pond, a wetland, or pervious pavers?

You can find information on each of these SCMs in Chapter 7:  Professionally-Installed Options.  However, we strongly suggest contacting a professional to aid in these more advanced SCMs.  You can find a list of local, certified professionals here.

Where do I find contractors or professionals for assistance?

Check out our list of local, certified professionals who can help here.

Which plants are good to use in SCMs?

Check out our suggested plant list here.