This spring, rain will flow into Puget Sound — as will pollutants from roofs, driveways, lawns and sidewalks. 

However, homeowners who want to prevent that pollution could get their bill footed through a little-known incentive program.

Here’s how it works.

Homeowners can install a rain garden or a cistern, which can slow and filter runoff, and keep basements dry. Plants and spongy soil from a rain garden can filter the water, while a cistern releases water gradually instead of all at once like after a shower.

Those living in eligible areas of the city of Seattle who hire an approved contractor can apply for a RainWise rebate, which averages around $4,200. King County nonprofits or residents who are income-limited may be eligible for separate grants, up to $1,500 or $4,500, from local nonprofit environmental advocacy group Stewardship Partners.

The RainWise rebate funded more than 2,100 projects last year.

Aaron Clark, a director at Stewardship Partners, which has spearheaded the campaign to install rain gardens and cisterns, said storm-water runoff is the single largest source of pollution to the Sound.

One residential rain garden can divert 70% to 100% of the rainwater from a property, according to the group.

They launched a campaign in 2011 aiming to have 12,000 rain gardens installed around Puget Sound. Clark said while there are likely many unregistered rain gardens, the organization is more than halfway to its goal.

“We’re not winning the fight to protect Puget Sound yet,” Clark said.

To get the word out about the program, a “Rain Changers” radio campaign — voiced by Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard — will be aired this weekend. Advertising space for the campaign, which includes bus ads, cost $30,000, covered in part by a $10,000 donation from Merlino Media Group, a spokesperson for Stewardship Partners said.


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