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RiverSmart Landscaping Program

Rainwater becomes stormwater when it falls on impervious surfaces such as rooftops, driveways, roads, sidewalks and even lawns- then flows off of the site.

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is partnering with the District of Columbia’s Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) to encourage DC property owners to use rain gardens, permeable pavers, and other practices to reduce the amount of stormwater running off of their properties. Property owners can receive these stormwater reduction practices through either the Rebate Program or the Grant Program.

Rebate Program

Through the Landscaping Rebate Program, District property owners may receive a rebate for the installation of a rain garden, replacing impervious surface with vegetation, or replacing impervious surface with permeable pavers on their property. District residents who have already completed a grant project through the RiverSmart Homes Program are still eligible to complete one new project through the RiverSmart Rebate Program. Additionally, homeowners who wish to install a project themselves, use their own contractor, or are unable to wait through the regular grant process of the RiverSmart Homes Program may want to utilize the rebate program to install a stormwater practice on their properties.

Rebate Amount

Rebates will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis and are subject to availability of funds at the time an application is reviewed.  Rebate awards are based on the type and size of project:

Rain garden:

  • $3.00 per square foot (s.f.) treated, maximum rebate is $2,200
  • minimum treatment area is 400 s.f.

Replacement of impervious surface with vegetation:

  • $5.00 per s.f. of project area
  • minimum project area is 200 s.f.

Replacement of impervious surface with permeable pavers:

  • $10.00 per s.f. of project area
  • minimum project area is 100 s.f.

Homeowners will be responsible for completing a project planning phase as well as submitting all necessary paperwork.  Failure to obtain project approval from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay prior to the start of construction may result in disqualification from project funding.

Project Installation

Homeowners may complete a rain garden or replacement of impervious surface with vegetation project as a do-it-yourself (DIY) job or may hire a participating contractor to perform the work. Pervious paver projects, however, must be installed by a contractor with the PICP Specialist Course certificate of completion.

Grant Program

The RiverSmart Homes Landscaping Grant Program provides homeowners a grant credit towards the installation of up to two garden projects (based on property eligibility): rain gardens and/or BayScape gardens.  District homeowners work in conjunction with an assigned certified contractor to install the selected practice(s). After paying a small copayment for each project, the remainder of each standard project installation is covered by grant funding.

Both rain garden and BayScape garden installations utilize native plants that are indigenous to the Chesapeake Bay region.  Native plants typically require less maintenance than other plants found at local nurseries or hardware stores.  Once native plants are established, they require little or no water, fertilizer, and pesticides and may provide wildlife habitat and attract pollinators such as butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees.  Native plants can be used to stabilize steep slopes and decrease lawn area that must be mowed.

Rain gardens are landscaped with native plants to collect, store and infiltrate stormwater runoff in its loose amended soil and are strategically placed to intercept stormwater runoff until it can be fully absorbed into the ground.  Downspouts are directed into rain gardens to capture rainwater from rooftops to allow for slow release into the ground or even for use in watering gardens or washing cars (when stored in a rain barrel), preventing rapid flow across the ground and into storm drains that often overwhelms the stormwater system.  Because rain gardens are more effective at capturing and infiltrating stormwater runoff, they are preferred over BayScaping whenever possible.

Get Started

  • Click here (http://doee.dc.gov/riversmart-homes-application) or contact the DC Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) directly at (202) 535-2252 to enroll in the RiverSmart Homes Program and sign up to receive a Stormwater Audit from a DOEE auditor
  • A DOEE auditor will conduct a site audit of your property to assess which features – rain barrels, shade trees, rain gardens, BayScaping, or pervious pavers – are appropriate for your property. A Stormwater Audit Report (written copy of recommendations) will sent to you by your DOEE auditor
  • Respond to DOEE with your desired landscaping features
  • DOEE will add your selected project(s) to the wait list for installation.  Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay (Alliance) staff will contact you upon receipt and inform you of waiting list status

Installation

  • Alliance staff will assign your project(s) to a participating RiverSmart landscape contractor who will work with you to install project(s)
  • Homeowner is responsible for submitting one non-refundable copayment for each project installed ($75 copay per rain garden; $100 copay per BayScape garden)
  • Landscape contractor will conduct a site visit to walk you through a general description of your project(s) to be installed, based on the recommendations of the Stormwater Audit Report
  • Upon receipt of your signed Maintenance Agreement and project copayment(s), the landscape contractor will create a site specific design for your project(s), incorporating any preferences and input from the site consultation
  • The landscape contractor will send you a design sketch, written proposal, and photos of the proposed plants to be installed for review.  You may work with the contractor to modify the design as needed (one design sketch revision included through RiverSmart Homes Program)
  • Upon approval of design by both homeowner and the Alliance, the landscape contractor will schedule your project installation(s)

Completion

  • Project(s) are installed by the landscape contractor.  Maintenance instructions are provided
  • Please follow the care instructions and be sure to water regularly!
  • There is a plant warranty of one year, provided the maintenance care instructions are followed.  Please contact the Alliance with any concerns regarding garden functionality or plant health. Immature plants are planted during installation and will take time to fill in and flower.
  • Once the garden has become established (generally about one year after installation), your garden will require minimal maintenance
  • Enjoy!
Sarah Davidson RiverSmart Homes Program Coordinator, Maryland & DC Office

Sarah is the Alliance's RiverSmart Homes Program Coordinator, based in Washington DC, where she coordinates stormwater projects and opportunities for community engagement throughout the city.

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