Progress / Science

UVM Rain Garden Gets a Makeover from Engineers without Borders Student Group

Elle Mountain, an engineering student at the University of Vermont (UVM), serves on the leadership team of the student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and is steering the group in the renovation of a UVM campus rain garden.

EWB is a non-profit organization that helps communities achieve basic human needs through engineering projects. For instance, UVM’s EWB chapter has participated in slow sand filter design and construction in Honduras to provide access to clean drinking water for communities in need.  Typically, EWB focuses on international projects, but the student chapter took an interest in contributing to water quality in their local community by improving the UVM campus rain garden outside of the engineering building. A repaving project since the garden’s 2006 installation changed the flow of water into the garden. As a result, the soil media has become clogged and many of the planted perennial species died. Overgrown weeds made it hard to tell there was an important stormwater feature on site at all.

The students received funding from the Lake Champlain Basin Program to re-design, remove sediment, re-plant, and beautify the rain garden that intercepts parking lot runoff that otherwise flows onto Colchester Avenue storm drains.

raingarden before

UVM rain garden entrance prior to redesign- with sediment captured in the forebay.

The students’ design maintains the original shape of the garden including two cells separated by a permeable berm, but corrects the grading, removes built-up sediment, and establishes plant species more appropriate for the high salt loading and low light of the site.

This fall, EWB students and volunteers will reconstruct the swale leading into the garden from the parking lot to include a gravel sediment trap that will reduce clogging in the garden itself. They will also scrape away the top layer of the garden soil to expose a more permeable layer underneath. Weeds will be removed and replaced with chosen perennial selections. VT Department of Environmental Conservation, in collaboration with the Lake Champlain Sea Grant Program developed a bike tour map featuring this and other green infrastructure sites in Burlington. You can check it out here: And stay tuned for a Rutland version of the same map coming this summer.

raingarden map

Redesign of the UVM rain garden. Red arrows indicate water flow off of paved parking areas and blue areas are areas of the garden that will be replanted with perennials.