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Rain Gardens Keeping Up With Continued Rain

Posted on June 17, 2015

(Kansas City, Mo.) – The persistent rains that have recently drenched Kansas City show how effective rain gardens can be in soaking up water.

In an effort to reduce sewer overflows, mitigate flooding, and enhance the water quality of area streams and rivers, KC Water Services currently maintains about 15 acres of green infrastructure. Green infrastructure, which includes rain gardens, bio-retention basins, enhanced detention basins, and permeable pavements, reduces the volume of water entering combined sewer systems during rain events, thus reducing the number and volume of overflows. In combined sewer areas, green infrastructure slows the delivery of wet weather flows to the sewer system, helping to mitigate peak flows while providing filtration through the soil for some portion of the release into the sewer system, thereby reducing pollutant loads.

“Keeping water out of the sewer helps prevent overflows where we have sewage that is going into the rivers untreated,” explained Lisa Treese, a Senior Landscape Architect with KC Water Services. “Water catches in the rain garden, where it slowly soaks in, thereby staying out of the sewer.”

Rain gardens are designed to drain within 24-72 hours. During heavy rains, the gardens are designed to overflow to protect the water from getting too deep and not draining fast enough. However, even when they overflow, the gardens are still cleaning, slowing down, and soaking in a lot of water that would have pooled on streets or rushed into waterways.

Many of the rain gardens built by KC Water Services can be found near E. 75th Street and Lydia Avenue, in Kansas City’s Marlborough neighborhood. The rain gardens were built in 2012 and are part of the Middle Blue River Green Infrastructure Pilot Project. Combined, these rain gardens capture approximately 300,000 gallons of water each time Kansas City gets 1-inch of rain. Rain gardens prevent approximately 7 million gallons of water from entering the sewer system each year.

The Pilot Project also includes porous sidewalks. “Rain soaks in through the pavement and into a gravel zone underneath, where water slowly infiltrates into the ground,” noted Treese. “It’s one more green infrastructure technique that helps keep water out of the sewer.”

Similar green infrastructure projects are being planned for an additional 640 acres in the Middle Blue River Basin as part of Kansas City’s Overflow Control Program (OCP), the largest infrastructure investment in the City’s history. This 25-year program, which began in 2010, aims to improve the water quality of local streams and rivers by reducing the frequency and volume of sewer system overflows. The OCP represents a $4.5-$5 billion investment that is funded by wastewater rates paid by customers who use the City’s sewer systems. To learn more about the investments KC Water Services is making throughout Kansas City as part of the OCP, please visit

For more information, please contact Brooke Givens, Media Relations Coordinator, at or 816.513.0284.


KC Water maintains and operates water treatment and distribution systems, stormwater management systems, and wastewater collection and treatment systems for residential and business customers in Kansas City and for wholesale customers in the Kansas City area. KC Water is primarily funded by fees charged to customers based on their use or impacts on the three utility systems.

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