City program could help you save on annual water quality bill

Certification in the RainSmart Yards program could get a business or homeowner up to 75% off the annual bill

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – It’s spring time, and that means showers are likely in our forecast. Sometimes, those showers bring so much rain they overwhelm drains, and that brings sewage and liter into our river. To help that, the city of Chattanooga has a program for businesses and residents that can help take money off your bill.

Chattanooga residents can save up to 75 percent on their annual water quality fee as a part of the RainSmart Yards certification program. It’s designed to prevent rain from running off residents’ property and into Chattanooga’s sometimes overburdened storm drainage system.

The average cost for water quality for a single family home in Chattanooga is $167 annually. With some minor modifications to a property, that $167 can drop to as little as $42.

Ellis Smith, interim communications director for the City of Chattanooga says, “Instead of giant storage tanks that you see along the highway or that you see on Moccasin Bend, we’re trying to turn every yard into a beautiful mini-storage tank and we’re willing to give people a discount to do it.”

“The average city of Chattanooga resident can get money back because the city of Chattanooga’s storm water program has a reimbursement program if you do a rain garden, and if you add native plants, if you want a rain barrel… They will reimburse you for those costs,” explains Mary Beth Sutton, Executive Director of WaterWays, which is the group leading the city’s certification process.

A rain garden with native plants is considered one of the better ways to become gold certified under the WaterWays process. This one near Signal Mountain is helping this homeowner get a silver certification, which could get her 50 percent off the water quality bill.

Rosy Harpe, WaterWays’ coordinator for My Tennessee Creek Friendly Yards says, “These plants that you see here in this garden were put here especially because of their tendency to love water, so they actually thrive on periods of flooding and they can also withstand periods of drought, which make them excellent candidates for a garden like this.”

Mayor Tim Kelly is taking part in the program, and – don’t laugh – needs some modifications before his property can get certified. Kelly lives in the City Center, where many of the storm water runoff problems are.

Sutton: “The worst issues are not on the hillsides and the mountains. They’re in the urban core. They’re in the city center because everything’s paved over, and so there’s no place for the water to infiltrate. Mayor Tim Kelly’s yard is this close to being certified. We have to figure out where his downspouts are going because they’re just going down into the ground, but he lives in the city of Chattanooga, in the city center and that’s the real place that we need to get more and more water infiltrating back into the soil.”

Smith: “If ten thousand residents put rain gardens in their yards, we can save as much as twenty Olympic-sized swimming pools from running off into our storm water systems into our sewer system. That is huge! That’s just 10,000 out of 180,000 people.”

Businesses and residents of Chattanooga and Hamilton County are eligible for the certification program. You just won’t get the discounts fi you are outside the city of Chattanooga. To get started, head to and start the certification process on the website.

Categories: Chattanooga, Environment, Featured, Hamilton County, Local News