Each Bio-Swale


What is this?

A bio-swale is basically a linear rain garden – a low spot on the landscape that is designed to capture rain water that slowly drains into the ground rather than rushing in to a storm drain. Bio-swales are planted with deep-rooted native flowers, grasses and/or sedges that can absorb tremendous amounts of water and thrive in both wet and dry conditions. Bio-swales are oftentimes former drainage ditches which have been planted with native species. Parking lots are another excellent location for bio-swales.  

How do I do this?

On my own

  1. Plant your drainage ditch with native flowers, grasses and/or sedges suited to both wet and dry conditions to slow and absorb stormwater runoff.  Check with your village to be sure this is permitted. Here is a list of some of our favorite plants (but certainly not the only plants) that should do well in a bio-swale:

    Sweet flag (Acorus calamus)                                
    Tussock sedge (Carex stricta)
    Queen of the prairie (Filipendula rubra)
    Fowl manna grass (Glyceria striata)                               
    Sneezeweed (
    Helenium autumnale)  
    Sweet grass or Vanilla grass (Hierchloe odorata)                
    Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana)       
  2. Learn more about bio-swales at www.upperdesplainesriver.org/bioswales_links.htm
  3. Click here to Visit a Bio-swale Near You
  4. Make sure water can get into the site, especially in parking lot bio-swales. New construction is a great time to incorporate a bio-swale.

Hire some help
Find a local company to design and/or install you bio-swale: Local Vendors

Why is this important?

Like rain gardens, by increasing the amount of stormwater that soaks into the ground rather than entering storm drains, bio-swales reduce flooding and drainage issues. And by filtering stormwater as it soaks into the ground, bio-swales also cleanse water going into streams, rivers and lakes of pollutants carried by stormwater runoff such as lawn pesticides and fertilizers, oil and other fluids that can leak from automobiles, and other potentially harmful substances that are washed off roofs and paved areas. Bio-swales also provide valuable and attractive habitat for many species, including birds and butterflies.

As our area continues to be developed, increased storm-water runoff results from the increase in impervious surfaces (such as roads and  buildings).  This leads to increased flooding in which pollutants are carried from the streets, parking lots and lawns to our streams, rivers and lakes.  

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