‘One School at a Time’ Encourages Students to Help Protect Puget Sound

Henry M. Jackson High School Students pose in front of the planted rain garden.

Henry M. Jackson High School Students pose in front of the planted rain garden.

Four rainwater harvesting systems, two rain gardens, one Depave (removing pavement) project, and one sustainable landscape – that’s how many school projects we’ve installed this school year working with K-12 students in our Puget Sound Starts at My School program which finished on June 30th. Needless to say, we’ve been busy at Snohomish Conservation District!

Working alongside District engineer Derek Hann, 658 students helped plan, design, install and maintain Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) projects to address stormwater pollution at their respective schools. Students also received numerous hands-on classroom lessons about the impacts of impervious surfaces on the water cycle from the District’s education team. A total of 1,243 student contact hours were logged. Grant funding provided by National Fish and Wildlife (NFWF) and Snohomish Conservation District Assessment Funding covered program expenses to make these school projects possible.

The newly installed stormwater projects at these schools will help divert and filter an estimated 435,767 gallons of stormwater every year. 

It’s pretty powerful to think that a project high school seniors put in this year will continue to protect Puget Sound, even as those students head out into the world to new cities, careers, and colleges. Same goes for 5th graders who will be moving on to middle school.  That’s the power of hands-on projects such as these. Students have the opportunity to go beyond textbooks to make a real and lasting difference in their community.

For some graduating seniors at Jackson High School and Cascade High School in Everett, participating in the program meant planting their first plants ever. They also realized how long a project takes to be completed, and how vital it is to engage stakeholders such as the School District’s Head of Maintenance and the school Superintendent early on. One Jackson senior wrote, “I learned how hard it is to get stuff approved, how easy it is to help reduce our stormwater, and how fun it can be.”

For Utsalady Elementary Garden Club Members on Camano Island, the Cistern Project at their school means they’ll have most of their edible garden summer watering needs covered. This is especially important because minimizing withdrawal pressure on local aquifers helps reduce the risk of seawater intrusion, a threat many islands in our region face. If Camano residents followed suit by installing rain barrels at their own homes, it would help reduce aquifer withdrawals substantially, especially during dry summer months when an estimated one third of all residential water usage is for landscaping/lawn irrigation.

We hope that adults will be inspired by these youth-driven green stormwater projects by taking similar actions at their own homes. Residential rain gardens, rain barrels, cisterns and sustainable landscapes are great ways to reduce stormwater pollution while also conserving water.  Snohomish Conservation District often has funding available to landowners who want to install a stormwater project - either through special grant funding in target areas, or with residential cost-share funds allocated through the District’s annual assessment. This funding is available to eligible homeowners throughout Snohomish County and Camano Island, with priority given to projects that show the greatest benefit to water quality and groundwater protection. To learn more, check out our Sound Homes webpage.

School Projects at-a-Glance

Cascade High School Parking Lot Depave and Rain Garden Project

  • Approximately 322,538.6 Gallons/year of parking lot runoff will be diverted and filtered 

Jackson High School Rain Garden & Sustainable Landscaping Projects

  • Approximately 90,000 Gallons/year of roof and pavement runoff will be filtered 

Arlington High School Rainwater Harvesting System

  • Approximately 880 gallons of stormwater coming off of the school's greenhouse will be stored and utilized for growing plants year round. Because the barrels will be filled and emptied multiple times (approximately 10) over the course of the year, the system will divert an estimated 8,800 gallons every year from flowing into storm drains untreated.

Utsalady Elementary School Cisterns

  • Two 'upcycled' shipping totes have been transformed into a 550-gallon cistern system that will collect and store an estimated 5,550 gallons of stormwater coming off of the school's portable classroom, adjacent to the school's edible gardening beds. The harvested rainwater will cover almost all of the watering needs for these gardens.

Weston High School Cisterns

  • Two 'upcycled' shipping totes have been transformed into a 550-gallon cistern system that will collect and store an estimated 5,550 gallons of stormwater coming off of the school's greenhouse. The harvested rainwater will used to grow edible plants in the greenhouse year round.

Seattle Hill Elementary Rain Barrel System

  • A 6-barrel, 330-gallon rain harvesting system was installed at the school portable by SCD's WCC crew. Water will be used for the school's new garden beds and an estimated 3,330 gallons will be collected and used annually. This was paid for with SCD Lawns to Lettuce grant funding and education was provided through NFWF grant funding.