RainSmart Yards

RainSmart Yards awards homeowners for conscientious, creek-friendly practices in and around their homes.

In partnership with the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County, the RainSmart Yards initiative was founded in 2018 under the name My Tennessee: Clean Water Starts Here. This award program recognizes creek-friendly yards that capture and retain stormwater during rain events, as well as create habitat for native plants and pollinators.

In order to receive an award, you must have your yard visited in person by a WaterWays staff member or volunteer.

Let’s talk stormwater.

During a rain or snow event, the water that falls to the earth is called stormwater. This water soaks into the soil, is carried into waterways, or creates puddles that eventually evaporate, all contributing to the natural water cycle. However, the addition of human infrastructure like roads, buildings, lawns, and parking lots disrupts this cycle and leads to increased pollution and flooding. 

When excess water makes its way across impervious surfaces like paved roads, it picks up chemicals and other pollutants which will most likely make their way to rivers and streams. Most stormwater is untreated, going straight from a streetside drain to the nearest waterway.


Understanding this direct connection can make a big difference in the health of our local creeks and streams. Individuals can take actions on their property to mitigate stormwater and limit their overall water usage, lessening their impact on the ecosystem. Keep reading to learn how YOU can make a difference in your community and in your watershed! 

Creek-friendly yards provide all kinds of benefits

Little actions can make a big difference! Our three-tiered system awards homeowners who are practicing sustainability both inside and outside of the home. Use this comprehensive checklist to see what you’re doing right in your yard, and what you can improve! All of the criteria must be completed to achieve an award. If you’re still not quite sure where to start, our staff is happy to conduct a site visit to your home to talk about how we can get you to Gold!

Benefits of Native Plants:

  1. Low maintenance. Once established, native plants generally require little maintenance.
  2. Beauty. Many native plants offer beautiful showy flowers, produce abundant colorful fruits and seeds, and brilliant seasonal changes in colors from the pale, thin greens of early spring, to the vibrant yellows and reds of autumn.
  3. Healthy Places for People. Lawns and the ubiquitous bark-mulched landscapes are notorious for requiring profuse amounts of artificial fertilizers and synthetic chemical pesticides and herbicides. The traditional suburban lawn, on average, has 10x more chemical pesticides per acre than farmland. By choosing native plants for your landscaping, you are not only helping wildlife, but you are creating a healthier place for yourself, your family, and your community.
  4. Helping the Climate. Landscaping with native plants can combat climate change. In addition to the reduced noise and carbon pollution from lawn mower exhaust, many native plants, especially long-living trees like oaks and maples, are effective at storing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. 
  5. Conserving Water. Because native plants are adapted to local environmental conditions, they require far less water, saving time, money, and perhaps the most valuable natural resource, water.
  6. Wildlife. In addition to providing vital habitat for birds, many other species of wildlife benefits as well. The colorful array of butterflies and moths, including the iconic monarch, the swallowtails, tortoiseshells, and beautiful blues, are all dependent on very specific native plant species. Native plants provide nectar for pollinators including hummingbirds, native bees, butterflies, moths, and bats. They provide protective shelter for many mammals. The native nuts, seeds, and fruits produced by these plants offer essential foods for all forms of wildlife.

Information courtesy of The Audubon Society


RainSmart is a homeowner’s incentive program that reimburses City of Chattanooga residents for installing green infrastructure projects on their property.