August 2, 2010 By Russell Nichols
Adding solar panels to a roof might be the most popular method for preserving energy in residential and commercial buildings, but for residents in Ankeny, Iowa, going green also means adding features to houses to conserve stormwater.
Taking an approach similar to programs that support energy improvements, the city recently launched an incentive program to help cover the cost of materials and contractor labor, according to Amy Bryant, civil environmental engineer with the city. City officials budgeted $10,000 this fiscal year to support the program, the first of its kind in Ankeny.
"This program gives people the opportunity to use money to make improvements for drainage issues," Bryant said. "We want to improve our water quality and water quantity, and this is one way we can help do that."
Residents can add features such as rain barrels, install a rain garden or native landscaping to help filtrate water or add types of permeable pavement on their property. The city will match 50 percent of the costs on qualifying projects, up to $1,000 and up to $75 for rain barrels.
Stormwater that runs on hard surfaces such as paved streets, parking lots and rooftops doesn't soak in, but instead collects sediment, contaminants, litter, nutrients and other pollutants. That water discharges untreated into Ankeny's creeks and ponds, causing problems to aquatic life and structures, which could in turn require repairs that affect taxpayers.
"What we're trying to do is keep the water from our streams and ponds," Bryant said. "We have a lot of water that's rushing off people's yards and into streams, making them eroded and unstable. If we do a better job of controlling our stormwater, we don't have the sentiment buildup."
So far 35 people have applied for the grants, she said. The applicant must pay all project costs up front and submit receipts to receive reimbursements. Residents must also secure applicable permits beforehand. The program provides funds on a first come, first serve basis.