For years, health experts have advised that everyone should not allow standing water to accumulate to help control mosquitoes. But now the San Antonio Water System and the San Antonio River Authority have launched a new program that offers a different approach.

The concept is calling for something new called “rain gardens.”

“A rain garden is essentially a bowl that you create in your landscape to capture some of the rain water that runs off of your land, to hold it and let it sink into the ground so that it can clean that water instead of sending it right into the street or right into our creeks and rivers,” said Lee Marlowe with the San Antonio River Authority.

With regard to keeping mosquitoes from breeding, Marlowe said that the water disappears before the insects have a chance to breed.

"Rain gardens are intended to hold water just for a short period of time. So, ideally, you would design it so that it would only hold that water for about 24 hours and then it would drain. So it doesn't become a mosquito problem,” said Marlow, who added that trapping storm water and allowing it to seep into the landscape improves water quality in our local watersheds. "This is a good idea because our creeks and rivers need our help. We need to do our part to help clean the water that comes off of our landscapes and goes into our creeks and rivers.”

Heather Ginsburg with SAWS said that when hardy native plants are added to a rain garden feature, the area becomes a healthy habitat for bees, butterflies, birds, and other wildlife.

“It's absolutely stunning and, more importantly, it's very functional,” Ginsburg said.

Marlowe said that the demonstration rain garden at the SARA office building on the 600 block of Euclid is a good place to see a rain garden in action.

“Most all of the plants you see here in this SARA rain garden are plants that are on our water saver landscape coupon, which will be available in May,” Ginsberg noted.

“You can really support a wide variety of wildlife in your yard and have it look good and have it clean the water at the same time,” Marlowe said.

There are many variables when designing a rain garden system, like the size of the lot, the amount of runoff, and the type of soil, but help is available.

“There are some pretty basic guidelines. You want to keep the rain garden at least 10 feet away from your home, other structures and sidewalks. And the best thing to do is watch the water when it's raining,” Marlow said.

On Saturday morning, SAWS is hosting the Spring Bloom Giveaway. They will give free plants to the first 1,000 people who show up, plants that do well in rain gardens.

There will also be expert advice on how to design a rain garden for residential yards. Both SAWS and SARA have additional information about this program on their websites.

Here’s a link to Saturday’s Spring Bloom Giveaway event.