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Contain the Rain: Program aims to reduce pollution in Johnson County stormwater

rain barrel and garden.jpg
Posted at 7:37 AM, Apr 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-24 08:37:23-04

LENEXA, Kan. — Johnson County is bringing back an annual program to cut down pollution, but with a new name. Now called "Contain the Rain," the program is designed to reimburse people living in Johnson County for up to 50 percent of the cost of rain barrels, native plants and eligible materials for building a rain garden.

The idea is to collect rainwater before it can wash motor oil, fertilizer and other chemicals into streams or retention ponds polluting the water which eventually works its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

"The environment is tied to everything. It's tied to our health, our livelihoods, everything. So without the environment, we're not going to have anything else to survive with," said Jerri Miller from Bridge the Gap.

Johnson County contacted the environmental organization to help it re-brand and roll-out the program toward the end of 2018. Now nearly every city in the county offers some degree of reimbursement.

This year, Johnson County will split $100,000 between cities for them to administer individually. One project leader said last year, cities only gave out $30,000.

Johnson County Water Quality Specialist for the Stormwater Management Program Heather Schmidt said native plants do a better job filtering rainwater, but are not as popular in typical landscaping choices.

"The native plants we encourage have a much deeper root system. So they encourage a lot more infiltration that a typical turf grass lawn would and require less inputs as far as fertilizer goes. So you don't have to put those potential pollutants onto your lawn," Schmidt explained.

She said rain barrels allow property owners to conserve water by collecting rain in barrels and using the water later to water plants.

Thursday, Bridging the Gap is hosting a native plant workshop at the Sylvester Powell Community Center in Mission from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturday, the Shawnee Mission Indian Foundation is hosting a native plant sale at The Mission, 3403 W. 53rd St. in Fairway from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information on how to get reimbursed through the Contain the Rain program, click here.