Growing food and stopping floods with rain gardens

Small urban ‘rain gardens’ are popping up all around Australia and Indonesia to keep waterways free from pollutants, stop flooding and erosion, and to grow food.

Although they may look similar to a normal garden, beneath the surface rain gardens are a sandwich of layers of sand, gravel, roots and microbes through which polluted water passes and clean water exits, which can then be used for irrigation or washing.

“Rain gardens are one of the best landscaping design ideas to come out of Melbourne—they are easy to maintain and water saving,” says Associate Professor David McCarthy from Monash University’s Environmental and Public Health Microbiology Laboratory.

Supported by The Australia-Indonesia Centre, David is working with Professor Hadi Susilo Arifin of Bogor Agricultural University to bring rain garden technology to communities in Bogor, Indonesia.

Hadi and his team are working with three communities in Bogor to adapt Melbourne’s rain garden technology, and hope to educate people about water hygiene in the process. He also hopes that villagers will self-organise to use the better-quality water in creative ways.

Drainage pipes directly from shower/toilet room to the river. Credit: Hadi Susilo Arifin