City of Madison

City of Madison Engineering | Photo Credit: Archie Nicolette



The Friends of Lake Wingra brought the proposal of a rain garden street to the City of Madison. Nine different streets within the Wingra watershed that were scheduled for reconstruction in the next 5 years were considered candidates for the project. The list was narrowed following a site review and the available storm sewer in the area. The Friends of Lake Wingra and the City of Madison reviewed the final list and Adams Street was considered by both to be the best choice.

In 2005, nine rain gardens were constructed along 3 blocks of Adams Street. The gardens were mulched over winter and allowed to settle before they were planted in June 2006.

Where possible, gardens collect street runoff, otherwise they collect water from sidewalks via sidewalk grates. Four-inch pipes direct water into the gardens, and 6-inch tall overflow pipes are located in each garden to prevent flooding. The overflow pipes take water back into the regular storm pipe system.

Steps have been taken to protect adjacent properties, such as:

  • Soil borings in the area of the proposed gardens
  • Using a special soil mix of 1/3 sand, 1/3 topsoil, 1/3 compost
  • Installing underdrains & overflow pipes



The City of Madison hired a consultant to plant and maintain the rain gardens for the first year. Each homeowner had a say in what type of plants were used in front of their house, and were included in the actual planting.

Homeowners will be responsible for maintaining the plants after the first year. The gardens were designed and built so that they could be filled in and seeded with turf grass in the event a new owner does not want a rain garden.



City Engineering is currently working on a second rain garden street in the Eton Ridge Neighborhood. More on this soon.


Image: Rain garden planting day

Image: rain garden planting day
Image: rain garden, first spring
Image: rain garden, fall
Girl Scouts, parents, homeowners, city staff, and other volunteers helped out during the 3-day planting event. Over 3,300 plants were installed in 7 rain gardens.