Since mid-2005, Kansas City metropolitan area residents have built 86 rain gardens and counting - counting up to 10,000 - the number of rain gardens they want to build to reduce the amount of runoff that pollutes their waterways. 10,000 Rain Gardens is not a government program but a public-private initiative, involving citizens, corporations, educators, nonprofit organizations and government agencies such as the Kansas City Metropolitan Area Water Services Department.
Even though it is not a government program, the 10,000 Rain Gardens initiative has attracted the support of elected officials.
"Protecting our streams and rivers from pollution and our homes and businesses from flooding requires a regional approach to be truly effective upstream and downstream," said Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes.
A rain garden is a shallow basin filled with native plants that hold and filters rain. Stormwater runoff is captured in a small bowl-like garden that is planted and maintained with attractive, thirsty native plants whose roots grow deep into clay soils common to the Kansas City area.
In part, 10,000 Rain Gardens is a public education initiative, and it appears to be working.
In 2003 the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) conducted a first, benchmark water quality survey of residents in the metropolitan Kansas City area.
The survey is part of an ongoing effort to measure the impact that water quality education efforts in the region are having on the public's overall awareness and behavior.
In that first survey, less than half those questioned thought they could do something to help improve water quality. Only 25 percent of those surveyed had seen or heard ads related to water quality.
After a recent six week publicity campaign for 10,000 Rain Gardens in television, radio and print, public awareness of stormwater issues is up 30 percent from six months before.
During 2005, MARC conducted its second water quality survey of residents in the metropolitan Kansas City area. This poll showed a majority of citizens, 53 percent, said yes, they have seen or heard information.
To the people behind 10,000 Rain Gardens the solution is obvious. "Green solutions can have a powerful cumulative effect in reducing pollutants in our rivers and streams," 10,000 Rain Gardens says on its website. "Native plants are drought-tolerant, require no fertilizer, support wildlife, look great, and their deep roots help water to infiltrate into the soil instead of into the stormwater system."