BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Berkeley Heights School District received a grant in the amount of $4,500 from New Jersey American Water for a new rain garden. The newest garden was planted in front of Columbia Middle School on Plainfield Avenue.

The school district, working together with the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission, and the efforts of Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program as part of a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, continues their effort with stormwater management by establishing rain gardens on their property.

Rain gardens are beautiful landscape structures that also serve to manage stormwater. The rainwater become available to plants as groundwater, then helps sustain aquifers rather than passing through stormwater drains to rivers and streams. Rain can thus reduce downstream flooding and the amount of pollution reaching streams. These gardens also add beauty to neighborhoods and provide wildlife habitat. 

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Rain Gardens resemble regular gardens; the difference is in the depth of the excavation and the location on the site. They are designed to capture and filter the runoff water, reduce the amount of stormwater that goes into the drain, and, by allowing water to slowly infiltrate the ground, they recharge the groundwater supply. Rain gardens allow 30 percent more water to soak into the ground than a regular lawn. Once the garden is established, maintenance is relatively light and only involves weeding, mulching and thinning.

The Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission continues to encourage residents to be aware of what they can do for the environment. “Rain barrels and rain gardens keep stormwater from going down the drain and so help reduce downstream flooding," said Leister.