Rain Check—our program best known for providing City residents with free rain barrels—is entering its sixth year with a new website designed to encourage more home landscaping projects that protect local waterways.
By visiting the new Rain Check site, residents can now get a jumpstart on sustainable projects in the new year by discovering the best green upgrade for their property, right from their phone or computer.
"More than 3,500 Philly homes now have rain barrels or other green stormwater tools thanks to Rain Check, so there's clearly an appetite for sustainable home improvement projects in our city," says program manager and PWD employee Jeanne Waldowski. "With this new website, we're giving people who are thinking big about 'greening' their home in 2018 the tools they need to make it happen."
While free rain barrels are the most popular tool installed through Rain Check, the program also provides deep discounts on a range of green upgrades that lessen a home's stormwater pollution footprint.
Using fresh features on the new website, homeowners can explore whether a rain barrel, planter, or more involved green upgrade—such as a rain garden or rain-absorbing back patio—is a good fit for their property. After deciding what tool is the best option for shrinking their property's stormwater pollution footprint, residents can sign up for an upcoming workshop.
The free educational workshops, held in neighborhoods across the city, are mandatory to receive a free rain barrel or participate in Rain Check cost-sharing.
Check it Out: Take a quick quiz that will help you pick a project now
“People don't always have time to come to one of our free Rain Check workshops just to find out that their property doesn't qualify for a rain barrel or other green tool, so we designed the new site in a way that will help residents find out in advance what will work best on their property,” says Waldowski. “By taking a short quiz about their property, people can quickly find out if Rain Check is a good fit and what options are available.”
Qualifying projects can receive up to $2,000 through Rain Check cost-sharing.
The program is managed with support from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Certified contractors selected through the Greater Philadelphia Sustainable Business Network complete the green improvements after working with participants to select location, plants and other elements.
Standard rain barrels provide a no-cost option suited for homes with limited space, but more expansive projects that incorporate gardens or pavement removal are increasingly in demand. Since the program's start, Rain Check participants have saved over $300,000 on rain gardens, pavement removal and permeable hard-scaping projects.
Just a step above the free barrels are Rain Check's $100 planters, which come in wood or galvanized metal models, connect to gutter downspouts and are installed with these native plants to support local pollinator species. By capturing rain from residential rooftops, these planters are currently helping hundreds of local homeowners keep stormwater out of sewers during the high-flow periods that can cause overflows.
Why Philly Does Rain Check
Today, stormwater and sewer overflows caused by excess runoff from streets, parking lots, homes and other buildings represents the single biggest local source of pollution impacting rivers like the Delaware and Schuylkill.
Through the 25-year Green City, Clean Waters program, the City is investing billions in reducing sewer overflows and stormwater runoff pollution.
Green infrastructure that soaks up stormwater is being constructed on City-owned public property, and retrofit projects are encouraged on non-City and private property with grant incentives. Regulations, updated in 2015, require most new developments to incorporate green infrastructure or other systems that manage a significant portion of stormwater runoff on-site.
Those approaches leave one (rather large) category of land use out of the picture—residential.
With residential properties contributing a large portion of the hard, rain-repelling surfaces in Philadelphia, at-home green stormwater projects are an important part of protecting local waterways and improving water quality.
Rain Check, launched in 2012, gives the City an opportunity to reduce stormwater runoff from these areas and engage residents in the process of taking on this major environmental issue.
Each home with a rain barrel or downspout planter can keep thousands of gallons of stormwater out of sewers each year, and that number increases dramatically for properties with large, landscaped rain gardens.
Businesses, schools, organizations, religious institutions, and owners of commercial properties and apartment buildings (featuring more than four units) can also get grants for green stormwater projects through the Philadelphia Water Department's Stormwater Management Incentives Program (SMIP). More on SMIP →