DDOE Riversmart Program

Over 300 home owners in Washington D. C. applied to the District's Department of the Environment (DDOE) to be included in its Riversmart Program. Eight were chosen, one in each ward.

Those three hundred people hoped to be part of an effort to improve water quality by using a variety of techniques to retain stormwater on their property.

So far five residences have had all or part of the full Riversmart treatment that includes the construction of a rain garden, the placement of at least one rain barrel, the replacement of an impervious surface with a pervious surface (a drive way or walk way or both), the planting of canopy trees and the planting of a bayscape.

DDOE funded this pilot program with a grant of $110,000; selected home owners do not pay anything. DDOE is working with Friends of Rock Creeks Environment (FORCE), which is providing volunteers. "The program is designed to show how watershed friendly landscaping can beautify residential properties," according to FORCE's website. FORCE and other environmentalists hope that other home owners will emulate the models provided by the Riversmart program. Doing so is particularly important in D. C. where stormwater and sewerage use the same drainage pipes. During even moderate rains, the waste treatment plant is overwhelmed, and raw sewage is dumped into the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers and Rock Creek. Eliminating some of the stormwater will decrease the number of environmentally detrimental events.

Natural Resource Design, a Takoma based landscape company, designs the projects, and Demo Works executes the design.

Jenny Reed of Natural Resource Design says that because the District is an old urban area it presented many difficulties that Montgomery County will not probably face when it begins its Rainscapes Reward Rebate program this year. Access for machinery in the District's crowded streets is limited, and there are often multiple layers of cement and stonework under yards. Many areas can not be disturbed because of the presence of tree roots, pipes and wires. In addition, no more than 50 square feet can be dug up on any one property in the District, so rain gardens have to be on the small side.

Before and After Rain Garden installation photos at the Ward 5 home
Part of the Riversmart makeover

The Ward 5 home also included the replacement of the impervious stone path.

The replacement of an impervious walk-way with a new Riversmart walk-way at the Ward 5 home.

The eight residences were selected by Reed and the DDOE. They considered a number of factors, including visibility and accessibility for other people who are considering installing one of the stormwater retention devices or practices on their property. In spite of a careful selection process, they were often surprised by what they found when they started digging, including multiple layers concrete slabs under walkways and buried concrete pathways.

Installation of a new rain garden and the new pervious walkway on the Ward 8 home.

One of the residences selected was a home at 3218 13th St. where a back yard basketball court was replaced with a rain garden and bayscape. Another model is 1101 D St. NW.

The other three residences selected will be completed soon. DDOE installed these eight demonstration sites in preparation for offering rebates city-wide to homeowners who choose to install these practices on their properties. DDOE will be offering tours of the sites to homeowners interested in learning more about what they can do to reduce stormwater pollution from their property.