Rain Garden Subsidy

yellow perennial flowers in a garden

The City of Peterborough, in partnership with Peterborough GreenUP, has implemented a Rain Garden Subsidy program for qualifying residents in Peterborough to offset the cost of installing green infrastructure on private property. The subsidy will provide qualifying residents up to $1,000.00 reimbursement towards a rain garden based on the volume of rain water storage that the garden provides.

What is a rain garden?

A rain garden is a bowl-shaped garden that collects rain and melted snow. The rain garden absorbs stormwater (rain water) and melted snow that runs off impervious surfaces such as rooftops. The garden is designed to have a shallow depression that has deep, loose soil so that it absorbs and naturally filters stormwater, rather than that water entering the storm sewer network.

What is runoff?
When it rains, stormwater flows over streets, driveways, parking lots and lawns, and carries a variety of sediment and pollutants (e.g. road salt, garbage, automobile fluids) which then ends up in the storm sewer network. Storm sewer networks are designed to collect the water and direct it to a natural watercourse such as a river or stream to ensure that urbanized areas do not flood. This addresses the problem of stormwater quantity; however, this does not manage stormwater quality – how clean the water is of pollutants.
What is sediment and why can it be a problem?

Sediment is loose sand, clay, silt and other soil particles that settle at the bottom of a body of water. Water that is polluted with sediment becomes cloudy, preventing animals from seeing food. Sediment in stream beds disrupts the natural food chain by destroying habitat where the smallest stream organisms live causing massive declines in fish populations. Nutrients transported by sediment can activate blue-green algae that release toxins into our natural watercourses. Sediment increases the cost of treating drinking water and can result in odour and taste problems.

Why install a rain garden?

Currently, only 25% of the city of Peterborough's stormwater is filtered for pollutants before entering natural waterways such as the Otonabee River and Jackson Creek. When it rains, urban runoff (stormwater) carries sediment and pollutants from vehicles, fertilizers, road salt, animal waste, grass clippings, etc. into our natural bodies of water, polluting the natural habitat and our source of clean drinking water.

A rain garden is a simple and effective way of reducing the amount of urban runoff from your property while providing other benefits. They are aesthetically pleasing with low maintenance requirements.

A rain garden can also:

  • Reduce the amount of water that enters the local storm sewer network
  • Reduce flooding, mitigate drainage issues and prevent stream banks from eroding
  • Restore and recharge our groundwater system replicating the natural hydrological cycle
  • Attract birds, butterflies and beneficial insects, such as mosquito-consuming dragonflies
  • Reduce the amount of pollutants that run from urban areas straight into our waterways

Rain gardens effectively remove 90% of chemicals and 80% of sediments from stormwater runoff and allow for 30% more water to soak into the ground when compared to a regular grass lawn.

Who is eligible to apply?

Any residents in Peterborough whose property meets the criteria for the rain garden subsidy are eligible to apply. Details on eligibility are covered in the pre-approval application.

Basic requirements:

  • You must be a resident of Peterborough, and the rain garden must be installed on a property you own within the city of Peterborough. 
  • The rain garden must be in a low-lying location.
  • The rain garden must be installed at least three metres away from the foundation of your house.
  • You must be able to direct a downspout from your roof to the rain garden area.
  • The proposed rain garden location must be clear of any trees or underground services.

There is a limited amount of funding available for subsidies. Eligible applicants will be assessed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

How will the Rain Garden Subsidy work?

The Rain Garden Subsidy Application Guide provides details about the application process.  

Rain Garden Subsidy process overview


  • Complete the pre-approval application to determine that you meet the basic eligibility requirements and calculate a subsidy estimate based on the roof area being captured on your property and the size of your proposed garden. 
  • Create your aerial measurement drawing for submission in your application using the online aerial measurement tool.


  • Watch the online video series outlining the application process, rain garden design, proper installation and maintenance of your rain garden. 
  • Complete a slope calculation of the area where the proposed garden will be installed.
  • Complete a drainage test at the area where the proposed rain garden will be installed.
  • Complete your rain garden design sketch on the provided Design Sketch Template page included in the application guide. This sketch will also include your slope calculation and drainage test results, and will be submitted to City staff for review.
  • Once approved, install your rain garden within the same calendar year. One mandatory site visit with Peterborough GreenUP is required after excavation and before planting the rain garden.
  • Take progress photos before, during, and after construction. Keep all receipts for materials used (excluding tools).

Full details about how to complete the slope calculation, soil drainage test, and property details sketch are included in the Rain Garden Subsidy Application Guide. Application details will also be covered within the instructional video series. GreenUP and City staff are also available to assist in the application process and answer any questions you may have.

Once your rain garden is installed:

  • Provide receipts for all materials. Eligible materials include plants, stone, and topsoil. You can also put the subsidy amount toward the cost of hiring a professional landscaper. Tools such as shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows are not eligible for this subsidy. For questions about what materials can be included in the subsidy reimbursement, please contact City staff at rethinktherain@peterborough.ca
  • Provide photo documentation of the project.
  • Receive subsidy reimbursement up to your approved maximum amount for costs associated with qualifying materials used to install your rain garden.
Why a Rain Garden Subsidy?

A Rain Garden Subsidy allows residents the means to provide stormwater control at the lot level and do their part to help minimize the pollution that enters our natural watercourses by containing and treating storm water at the source.

When deciding how the subsidy should be implemented, the City conducted an online survey. Residents answered a series of questions that helped to guide the City's Rain Garden Subsidy program. 

Survey results indicated that:

  • 75% of residents thought that reducing flooding, maintaining clean waterways and reducing negative impacts of storm water runoff is very important
  • 57% of residents indicated that they prefer low maintenance gardens
  • 89% of residents indicated an interest in renovating their current gardens
  • Of those surveyed, majority indicated they would like to be provided with direction in order to complete and submit the application themselves with some help from City staff
  • 54% of residents expressed that they would like a "little bit" of professional help to ensure that they are implementing the right techniques for capturing stormwater runoff

If you have questions about this project, please contact Curtis Mei at 705-742-7777 ext. 1507. 

Find out more about GreenUP's Rain Garden Subsidy Resource Page