What is rainscaping?

“Landscaping” is a term we’re familiar with: It’s the use of plants, rocks, soil and other materials to beautify a yard or parking lot and increase its usability and value.

Rainscaping takes landscaping a step further, making use of landscaping techniques to maximize an important natural resource: rainwater.

When it rains, all of that water needs a place to go. Often, it runs across hard-packed ground or pavement and finds its way into stormwater drains, bringing harmful pollutants with it. In fact, according to the City of Bellingham, stormwater runoff from impervious areas is the primary source of pollutants found in regional streams, rivers and the Puget Sound.

Rainscaping techniques help direct stormwater into the ground, where it can be absorbed by plants and soils, minimizing water use and keeping harmful pollutants from water bodies. Options for rainscaping include the use of bioswales and rain gardens, the installation of rain barrels to capture water for use in irrigation, the planting of buffer strips around streams and bogs, and the reduction of impervious surfaces.

Savvy Whatcom County landowners don’t have to give up hard surfaces to prevent runoff. Instead, they can incorporate pervious concrete into rainscaping plans to provide solid surfaces – for parking, sidewalks, patios, etc. – that actually assist in the filtering of polluted runoff.

How to incorporate pervious concrete into rainscaping plans.

Pervious walkways with colored porches
The pervious concrete walkways on this Bellingham project allow rainwater to filter directly into the soil, nourishing nearby plants.

Pervious concrete provides a solid surface that looks a lot like traditional concrete but that contains voids to allow rainwater and runoff to flow right through it. As such, it’s an excellent material for any hard and durable surfaces you’d like in your upgraded yard. Pervious (often referred to as porous) concrete makes great patios, driveways, parking pads, pickleball courts and more.

A pervious concrete path can provide mud-free access to rainscaped areas of the yard 365 days a year. A pervious concrete patio can run right up against installations of deep-rooted plants and actually act as a conduit for making water accessible to root systems. A section of parking lot made from pervious concrete can feed an adjacent rain garden, just like one Minnesota company installed — with great results — as seen in this video.

Save money while you’re at it.

Why else might you want to consider using pervious concrete in your rainscaping plans? One great reason is that the City of Bellingham offers financial incentives for doing so. According to the city, the use of porous or pervious concrete helps meet criteria that could qualify projects for a 50% reduction in stormwater development charges. Not only that, using pervious concrete can help landowners avoid triggering requirements for stormwater detention and/or reduce the required size of stormwater mitigation facilities. For more information, check out the City of Bellingham’s Advanced Methods and Materials document on porous concrete and asphalt.

Visit the Custom Concrete Contracting website to learn more about pervious concrete, including about how the cost of pervious concrete compares to traditional concrete.