RT @MayorTimKelly: Folks, COVID-19 levels are still high in Chattanooga. The best way to protect yourself and your family is to stay up-to-…

View Our
Facebook Page!

Report Fraud, Waste,
and Abuse

Online Services Payments, GIS Maps, Tax Information
Contact Department contacts, Reports and Requests

Rainsmart Rain Gardens

RS rain gardens logo


rain garden cross section diagram


What is a rain garden?

A rain garden is a simple landscape feature for reducing stormwater runoff. It is a shallow depression filled with sandy soils, and planted with native plants suited to fluctuating water levels. Rain gardens help reduce stormwater runoff, & support the ecosystem by providing habitat & food for local species such as pollinators, birds, insects, & other organisms.


  • Rain gardens support our local ecosystem by using native vegetation


  • Rain gardens can reduce the amount of stormwater that leaves your property


  • Rain gardens are NOT water gardens


  • They do NOT contain standing water year-round


  • Rain gardens capture water during a rain event and then dry out within 72 hours (preventing any mosquitos from breeding)


  • They are NOT meant to decrease or prevent erosion on your property


  • They are NOT meant to decrease or prevent flooding on your property


Is a rain garden right for your yard?

Here are a few things to consider when thinking about a rain garden for your yard. While rain gardens are a great way to infiltrate stormwater, & support our local pollinators and ecosystem, they are not suitable for all yards and cannot solve all stormwater related issues.

Please read the following to get a better idea if a rain garden is the right option for you. Once you apply, a RainSmart representative can help you better assess your yard if you are still unsure.

  • If the spot in your yard where you would like a rain garden does not infiltrate water well now, it will not infiltrate better as a rain garden. The unlying soil determines the infiltration rate.


  • If the place where you would like to put a rain garden is on a steep slope, this can make it more difficult for a successful project. If you are trying to address erosion, or have a steep yard, our SupportScapes program may be a better option.


  • Does your home have gutters? For our purposes, the rain garden will be collecting rain water from your roof via your gutter downspouts. This means you must have gutters and they must be either connected to your rain garden, or lead there through approved methods to be eligible for the RainSmart program such as a pipe, swale etc.


  • If you are experiencing stormwater on your property originating from off site, it is likely that a rain garden won't be able to address those issues


How do I get reimbursed for a rain garden through RainSmart?

RainSmart rain gardens are reimburseable if they meet all eligibility & program requirements, and follow the process outlined below.


Am I eligible?

  • Must be a City of Chattanooga resident
  • Applicant must own the property
  • Project must demonstrate runoff reduction
  • Cannot currently work for the City of Chattanooga
  • Must be up to date on their water quality fee and property taxes
  • For our purposes, the rain garden or rain barrel will be collecting rain water from your roof via your gutter downspouts. This means you must have gutters and they must be connected to your rain garden or lead there through approved methods to be eligible for the RainSmart program


The process/how to apply:

We have 2 options available for rain garden installation/reimbursement. Keep these in mind, and if you need more information we can send it to you when you fill out your application.

The "Install Only" Option: Follow the steps below to install a water quality project at your home

The "Workshop" Option: Follow the steps below to have your water quality project installed. In addition, we will host a half-day educational workshop at your home where the public & your friends/family can help with planting & mulching while learning more about water quality!


1. If you meet our eligibilty requirements: Please fill out this RainSmart rain gardens application.

2. We will reply via email and schedule a day to come out and assess your property for the project. We call this a "site audit". 

-*If you have not received an email in response to your application within one week, please check your spam folder, or call (423) 643-5877

3. After we assess your yard, we will send you an estimation of your rain garden size, the reimbursement amount, & how much water you will be capturing.

4. Your property will have to pass a "percolation test" - this measures the infiltration rate of your soil and is vital to a sucessful project!

- It's easy. Just follow these perc test directions.

5. Who will be creating your project?

- You can choose to construct the project yourself (DIY), choose someone else you to do it for you, or choose from our certified landscapers. If you want to DIY, check out the resources we'vre provided at the bottom of this page!

6. You will need to read, sign, & return our Homeowner's Agreement document

7. We need a plan drawn of the project. It can be basic, & you can use our templates to help you or the contractor/landscaper you've chosen.

- Property diagram + rain garden diagram templates

- rain garden design checklist

8. The rain garden will need to pass 2 inspections to make sure the construction meets our standards. -- One is when the rain garden has been dug out to subgrade, the other is when the projected is complete.

9. You or the contractor/landscaper will turn in all receipts associated with the project.

10. If you meet all standards set forth by the program, we will begin processing your reimbursement.


Thinking of building your own rain garden?

Check out these resources & guides:

Photo by Phillip Stevens and Matt Lea