iPhone App Teaches Users How To Create Rain Gardens

UConn launches first smartphone application for public use.

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UConn Launches "Rain Garden" App
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UConn Launches "Rain Garden" App

The University of Connecticut has launched its first smartphone application for public use. The app, for iPhones, teaches users how to create a rain garden. It's had more than 700 downloads in two weeks.

A rain garden collects stormwater runoff, a concept that originated in Maryland as part of an effort to preserve the Chesapeake Bay.

CT NEMO, a program focused on municipal training at UConn within the university's agriculture department, teaches homeowners and landscapers how to build gardens. For the first time, the same information is available to anyone in their "Rain Garden" application.

"The rain garden basically helps to keep water close to where it was generated. So, instead of sending water off rooftops, parking lots and roads and having it go into streams and rivers untreated where it leads to lots of problems downstream, it allows it to sink into the ground right where it was generated. That's really how the water cycle was working before development occurred on that site," said program director Dr. Michael Dietz.

The app uses GPS for location-specific soil information, and walks users through design and instillation. Videos demonstrate each step. It will send reminders when time comes to water the garden.

But Dietz cautions, rain gardens aren't for everybody.

"You wanna be careful about not letting water sink down right next to your foundation where it can come back into your house. You wanna be careful of sceptic systems and wells or underground utilities if you're in a really heavily urbanized area," he said.

The app is Connecticut-specific, but people in at least 15 states have expressed interest in collaborating on a national effort.

To develop the program, Dietz got help from the Connecticut Sea Grant Program and a Ph.D. candidate in the computer science department.

"We were able to pay him a little bit of money, but it the grand scheme of things, it was pretty cheap compared to what we would have paid an outside firm," Dietz said.

The team is designing an Android version. Information is also available online at http://nemo.uconn.edu/raingardens/.