RiverSmart Homes: Landscaping

The RiverSmart Homes Landscaping program helps to reduce stormwater runoff to improve the quality of local streams and waterways.

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, in partnership with the District Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE), oversees the implementation of rain gardens and conservation landscaping (BayScapes) on private residences within the District of Columbia, as well as the education of participating homeowners on stormwater issues and the role they may play in alleviating stormwater runoff on their properties.

Homeowners learn about stormwater issues, rain gardens and BayScape gardens, the benefits of using native plants, and how to maintain them. Additionally, conservation landscaping training is provided for local contractors.

Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. These important plant species provide nectar, pollen, and seeds that serve as food for native butterflies, insects, birds, and other animals. Their deeper roots help to stabilize soils and prevent erosion and absorb more water and do not require fertilizer or pesticide. Learn more in our Native Plant Narratives video series!


A rain garden is a small bowl-shaped garden, landscaped with native plants to collect, store and infiltrate stormwater runoff. It uses loose amended soil and is strategically placed to intercept stormwater runoff until it can be fully absorbed into the ground.


A BayScape garden, or conservation landscaping, is the practice of landscaping with deep-rooted native perennials to stabilize hills, reduce erosion, and improve infiltration. These gardens create a diverse landscape that helps to protect clean air and water and support wildlife and native pollinators.

The RiverSmart Landscaping Program offers two pathways for participation:

  1. Homeowners sign up for the RiverSmart Program on DOEE’s website and receive a free stormwater audit assessment of their property.
  2. If the assessment recommends rain gardens or BayScape gardens to be installed, the Alliance will collect this information from DOEE and assign a landscape contractor to your project.
  3. Homeowners pay a $100 copayment per project and sign a maintenance agreement.
  4. The assigned landscape contractor will create a design specifically for your project and install it after approval from you and the Alliance.
  5. RiverSmart Maintenance Assistance Program is available to support RiverSmart homeowners with their gardens following installation.

*The installation program is currently in high demand and experiencing long wait times. It may take up to 12 months to be assigned to a landscape contractor after your audit is complete.

Homeowners may skip the wait list of the grant program to install a rain garden through the Rain Garden Rebate program as a DIY (do-it-yourself) project or through installation using a contractor. Rain gardens rebates are $3.00 per square foot treated (size of rain garden plus area that drains to garden), with a maximum rebate of $2200 per property.

  1. Complete a Rain Garden Rebate application and submit it to the Alliance.
  2. The Alliance reviews the application and performs a pre-construction inspection.
  3. Upon approval, the rain garden is installed.
  4. The Alliance completes a post-construction inspection and issues the rebate directly to the homeowner.