Restoring natural function to the urban landscape by building green infrastructure with volunteers of all ages.
We help communities plan and implement strategies such as bioswales, rain gardens and low-impact design projects that protect local watersheds from the pollution generated by modern life. These collaborative efforts help ensure the free flow of local creeks, reduce urban runoff, promote the spread of native plants and improve the natural beauty and biodiversity of our urban watersheds.
Rain Gardens & Bioswales
Rain Gardens and Bioswales are examples of green infrastructure, also called Low Impact Design, and use natural functions to capture and filter stormwater. Rain gardens and bioswales tackle the issue of pollution in waterways due to urban runoff by absorbing 30% more stormwater into the ground than a conventional lawn and reduce 70% of surface water pollution that originates from stormwater runoff.
What is a rain garden? A rain garden is a garden of native plants that is watered by stormwater. A rain garden accomplishes stormwater filtration by collecting water on low gradients, slowing it, and allowing the water to infiltrate into a porous surface, instead of flowing across asphalt or concrete. When the water is slowed, suspended particles settle out, and pollutants are decomposed by soil microbes, immobilized, or incorporated into plants.
What is a bioswale? A bioswale looks like a dry creekbed with plants growing inside. The bioswale is engineered with gravelly soil, so stormwater is absorbed quickly and deeply.
After a storm, rain flows over roads and rooftops and carries dirty water with it. Rain gardens and bioswales capture the stormwater and slow it down. This keeps the water from flooding homes and nearby streets, where it can create potholes. Slowing the water also enables it to soak into the ground, and lets dirt and pollutants settle out. Through this process, the rain gardens and bioswales help clean the water before it enters the San Francisco Bay. The native plants in the rain gardens and bioswales also create habitat for birds and butterflies.
With community input and volunteer assistance, The Watershed Project constructs bioswales and rain gardens across Richmond and San Pablo, including a network of 14 bioswales and rain gardens along the Richmond Greenway. Join our dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers every Second Saturday on the Richmond Greenway to plant and maintain these projects!
Learn more about past and current bioswale and rain garden projects here:
- Richmond Greenway
- Booker T Anderson – in progress
- Greening the Last Mile – in progress
- Unity Park LID – in progress
- How to build – in progress
Rainwater harvesting in cities can produce benefits that extend beyond water conservation. When rainwater harvesting systems are installed in public places, they serve as demonstrations of green infrastructure and offer examples of solutions to our environmental challenges. That’s why The Watershed Project works with schools and local municipalities to develop programming and opportunities to harvest the rain.
Learn more about how Rainwater Harvesting can capture rain in a garden!
Natural creeks flowing through parks, past businesses, and behind homes are a wonderful but sometimes underappreciated asset in our urban areas. The Watershed Project’s Creek Stewardship programs engage (work with) local communities, including students of all ages, to protect and enhance creeks and the adjacent vegetation – the riparian corridor. Our multiple goals are ambitious, but we are achieving them with community volunteer and service learning activities:
- To create and improve habitat for wildlife dependent on the creek by removing the trash and non-native plants like ivy and Himalayan blackberry, and by planting native trees, shrubs, herbs and wildflowers.
- To improve the quality of water flowing to San Francisco Bay by recreating a natural creek system, from the upper bank down to the water, that can filter out pollutants and maintain a stable bank. Not only will this restoration keep sediment from the creek, improving water quality and creek conditions for fish and invertebrates, this system will also be more likely to adapt and withstand the changing climate conditions of the future.
- To educate youth and adults in appreciating natural systems, and learn how we can work with them to enhance our environment. Youth will learn job skills along with scientific principles, and residents learn techniques that can be used on home landscapes.
Our current focus in on Rheem Creek at Wanlass Park in the city of San Pablo. Rheem is a small but perennial creek that flows through the Rollingwood neighborhood, the Contra Costa College campus, and winds through the City of San Pablo to release its waters into San Pablo Bay, just south of Pt. Pinole Regional Park. The open stretch of creek in Wanlass Park invites visitors to enjoy views of the water from a bridge or its gentle banks. We work closely with the city of San Pablo to conduct creek clean ups, and to enhance the native vegetation and wildlife habitat on its banks. The park draws many visitors with its multiple facilities, and is providing an opportunity for us to link our creek programs with our Rainwater Harvesting and Urban Canopy programs.
Future projects are planned in the City of San Pablo along San Pablo and Wildcat creeks. We also work with the City of Richmond on Baxter Creek.
Past projects on creeks have included parks along Wildcat Creek near San Pablo City Hall, and 23rd Street in downtown San Pablo.
The Watershed Project has been instrumental in fostering creek stewardship on a larger scope throughout the East Bay.
Our Community Stewardship grants and technical assistance has fostered the start up and growth of many a creek group, including SPAWNERS, Friends of Pinole Creek Watershed, Friends of Baxter Creek, Friends of Sausal Creek, and Friends of San Leandro Creek.
Trees in urban areas have multiple benefits for human health, the environment, and improve quality of life in neighborhoods. They improve air and water quality, provide shade and reduce temperatures in cities, and increase property values. They also provide a means to bring residents together to improve their communities, and offer job training and employment to local youth. In partnership with Cities and many other non-profits, The Watershed Project is committed to re-greening our corner of the East Bay.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has provided the City of Richmond a second grant to plant 500 trees for the city’s underserved communities within the next two years. The vision is 10,000 trees in the near future. Through the collective efforts of three nonprofits—The Watershed Project, Groundwork Richmond, and Pogo Park—and in partnership with other community-based organizations such as Richmond Trees, we are excited to launch the second phase of our tree planting program to green Richmond. The Watershed Project has been participating in the Adopt-a-Tree program since 2012, and this year has committed to adding 150 trees to the Coronado, Santa Fe, Booker T, and North Richmond neighborhoods. These trees will join the 200 trees already planted during the first stage of the project. By planting trees, we are transforming our urban environment and bringing nature into a historically industrial setting.
Habitat Gardens bring the color, motion, and excitement of local wildlife species such as birds, butterflies, pollinators, and other beneficial insects into the urban environment. We have created, and helped to create, several habitat gardens using drought tolerant Calif. Native plants in several public parks, and through our Wildlife Gardening classes have inspired and enabled hundreds of residents to create their own habitat gardens.
Water Friendly Plant List – Our favorites for East Bay landscapes, with a handy chart of color, size, growing conditions, and as a bonus, most attract birds and butterflies.
Low Water Gardening Resources – Where to find plants, water-conserving irrigation supplies, and additional information.
Rainwater Harvesting – You can catch your own rain to use in your garden, and help our creeks at the same time by reducing peak flows.
Sheet Mulching Basics – A low cost and environmentally friendly way to convert a lawn or other high water landscape.