I have to say how happy I am that my alma mater, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has just installed its first Rain Garden. It is 150 feet long, 20 feet wide and 18 inches deep. It is near the new (and very green) Studio Arts Building, below North Pleasant Street. The rain garden will collect run off from the street, protecting the wetlands and Mill River on the west side of the campus from pollution and sediment. Rain water is not clean after it has run off roads, lawns with animal feces and other trash. This dirty water can harm sensitive wetlands, and the sediment the run off carries will shorten the life of wetlands.
Students in Michael Davidsohn’s landscaping construction materials class, along with 2010 landscape architecture graduate Maxwell Cohen, worked on the project during the spring semester, using many recycled materials to keep the cost down. Staff from Building and Grounds and the Physical Plant assisted with excavating, which shows the university’s support of this environmental endeavor. Davidsohn estimates that the rain garden, planted with rushes, sedges and other water loving plants, can accept 3000 to 4000 gallons of water at a time.
Two other rain gardens are being planned for the Amherst campus. Even when rain gardens are not protecting delicate wetlands, they do protect our storm sewer systems and the waterways that feed our rivers. They also keep the rainwater on site – recharging the local aquifer.