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Greater Gallatin Watershed Council’s Rain Garden Initiative

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By Sharlyn Izurieta

Nearly 70 percent of stream
pollution comes from urban
stormwater runoff. Roofs and
pavement prevent water from
seeping into the water table.
To prevent flooding, untreated
storm water is usually directed
to the nearest stream, where it
flows out of the watershed.

But what if we trapped the flow, near
its source – like a downspout off a roof
– and channeled it into a depression
filled with grasses, shrubs and perennial
flowers? The resulting ‘pocket’
garden, or ‘rain garden’, retains and
filters the water as it drains back to
the water table, adds beauty to urban
landscapes, and habitat for birds, butterflies
and beneficial insects.

A new and innovative way to improve
water resources, the first rain gardens
were designed and built in Maryland
in 1990 by stormwater specialists. In
Montana, interest in rain gardens is
gaining momentum, with the Greater
Gallatin Watershed Council (GGWC)
leading the way.

GGWC’s Rain Garden Initiative began
in 2010 with the installation of a
demonstration rain garden at Bozeman
City Hall. The project was a collaboration
between GGWC, the City of Bozeman
and Sweet Pea’s Nursery.

GGWC aims to build
gardens each
year, as a
means to keep
water resources
healthy. As a part of the Initiative, two
rain gardens will be installed in the
Gallatin Watershed this year.

The first is a cooperative project
between GGWC, Bozeman School District
and Arrowleaf Landscape Design
at Sacajawea Middle School. The garden
is being incorporated into a summer
program for middle school students
participating in STReaM (Summer Tutoring
for Reading and Math). Teachers
will incorporate hands-on activities and
professional speakers into the curriculum,
with support from GGWC. In
addition, the rain garden will address
local stormwater runoff and overland
flow from nearby impervious surfaces
and a sod farm.

The second project is a collaboration
between the Blue Water Task Force
and Ophir School in Big Sky. Similar to
the Sacajawea program, students from
Ophir School will learn about rain
gardens, water quality and stormwater
issues in the Big Sky area.

Both projects have activities planned
to teach students and residents in
the Gallatin watershed about
stormwater, water quality
and how rain gardens can
improve water resources. Students
participating in the Sacajawea Middle
School program will design a walking
tour brochure and educational
signage. An open house or “dig day” is
scheduled for June 28. Volunteers and
community members will work side b yside with students from STReaM
to install the rain garden.

The City Hall Demonstration Rain
Garden will be part of the Emerson
Cultural Center’s Garden Tour, August
19-20, in Bozeman.

For more information or to become a
donor, contact Sharlyn Izurieta, Watershed
Coordinator, Greater Gallatin Watershed
Council, at 219-3739 or info@ For information or
donations for the Ophir School project,
contact Kristin Gardener, GGWC
Board Member and Executive Director
of the Blue Water Task at 993-2519 or

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