Scouts and volunteers planting a rain garden at Thoreau Elementary School

Scouts and volunteers planting a rain garden at Thoreau Elementary School to reduce erosion from runoff. Photo: David H Thompson

Water Action to Encourage Responsibility

The Arboretum lies at the bottom of the Lake Wingra watershed and receives millions of gallons of stormwater each year from surrounding neighborhoods and commercial areas. This water courses through wetlands and natural channels that have been eroded by runoff, ultimately feeding into Lake Wingra or Wingra Creek. Before arriving at the Arboretum, stormwater flows over roofs, roads, sidewalks, construction sites, and compacted lawns. Along the way, pollutants, excess nutrients, and sediment are picked up and carried to our rivers and lakes.

To reduce the harmful effects of urban stormwater and improve watershed health, the Arboretum has embarked on the WATER project, a partner collaboration to create a model for community engagement on stormwater issues and demonstrate how neighborhood-focused efforts and actions can make a difference. The WATER project is supported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Are you interested in learning more or becoming an ambassador for clean water in your watershed? Learn about how you can contribute to the Arboretum’s WATER project:

  • Learn more about stormwater issues and effects through the Resources and People page.
  • Explore the Stormwater Outreach Toolkit for resources you can use to engage friends, family, neighbors and fellow community members and promote specific actions to reduce stormwater impacts to local rivers and lakes.
  • If you’re interested in becoming a clean water ambassador and attending a future EmpowerU Stormwater outreach training, contact Anne Pearce.

2021–22 Community Partners

As part of the Environmental Protection Agency grant, the Arboretum called for proposals and selected five community partners to receive subawards for stormwater outreach and education projects in their communities. Members or these organizations will go through an EmpowerU training to become clean water ambassadors in their communities.

1000 Friends of Wisconsin and Leopold Elementary School

Install green infrastructure at Leopold Elementary School to address runoff issues in the schoolyard and provide education related to the project.

Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association

Install model rain gardens at Dudgeon Park and provide water stewardship activities in partnership with Wingra School and other organizations.

Friends of the Arboretum

Provide rain garden kits and consulting for residents and local organizations.

Friends of Lake Wingra

Provide financial assistance to Westmorland homeowners who want to install green infrastructure on their property.

West High School, In Pursuit of Sunshine student organization

Install two community rain gardens in the Burr Oaks neighborhood and provide rain garden kits and education to homeowners and businesses in the surrounding community.