RainWise Contractor Newsletter - Spring 2023

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More Seattle residents are becoming RainWise, with your help!

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Greetings RainWise Contractors,
We are entering spring with a new look and feel to our quarterly newsletter, and I am excited to share the latest updates with you. I have greatly enjoyed meeting many of you during my first few months with RainWise, and I look forward to more opportunities to connect in the months to come. In the meantime, I encourage you to reach out to me directly with your questions and suggestions for the program. I am so happy to be working alongside you all, helping provide Seattle residents with an opportunity to manage stormwater starting right at their own homes. Read on for news on the coming rebate increase, eligibility updates and other programmatic improvements that are underway.

Jessica Farmer | RainWise Program Manager, Seattle Public Utilities
jessica.farmer@seattle.gov, 206.586.2297

RainWise Rebates are Growing

Cartoon otter watering a garden

RainWise is very excited to share that our rebate rates will be increasing for the first time since 2017! We anticipate the new rebate calculator will be available in late May or early June. All projects that are initiated in 2023 will be eligible for the higher rates if the current rate did not cover the full cost of the installation, so you do not need to wait to start projects to qualify for the new rates.

What will the new rates be? We will be offering rebates up to $7/square foot of roof area managed for rain gardens, and up to $5.65/square foot of roof area for cisterns. (The current maximum rate is $4/square foot.) We are able to offer higher rebates for rain gardens because of the additional stormwater management benefits provided by rain gardens through vegetation and infiltration. 

Please note: The new rebate calculator will also incorporate changes to the stormwater code related to climate resilience that require us to plan for the heavier rains we are experiencing. This means that RainWise systems will need to be sized larger in order to qualify for the maximum rebate amounts. 

Full details and a new rebate comparison tool will be available soon.

Eligibility Changes

Map of RainWise eligible neighborhoods

There are three important changes happening around RainWise eligibility this season.

1. Barton Basin Re-opening: As mentioned in the Winter Contractor Newsletter, King County's Barton Basin in West Seattle has re-opened for RainWise eligibility. Many property owners in West Seattle are excited to take advantage of RainWise rebates. Please join us at an upcoming outreach event to meet these prospective customers. The new eligibility map with the Barton Basin included can be found here.

2. Changes to roof areas over 5,000 square feet: RainCity Partnerships is a new Seattle Public Utilities program starting later this year that will fund GSI installations on private properties with over 5,000 square feet of impervious surface through a community-based public private partnership model. If you have a potential big roof project over 5,000 square feet that you want to qualify for RainWise rebates, you must complete a pre-inspection before July 1, 2023. After July 1, those properties will be directed to the RainCity Partnerships program for implementing projects. RainWise contractors may still be able to complete an installation under RainCity Partnerships as a subcontractor, but the implementation and funding will look very different. The program design is still being finalized and more details will be shared as they are available. If you have questions about a property that might be eligible for RainCity, feel free to email me at jessica.farmer@seattle.gov.

3. Portions of Ballard and Fremont basins coming out of eligibility. Several addresses in the Ballard and Fremont basins will be coming out of RainWise eligibility because the stormwater flow control issues at those parcels are being addressed by the Ship Canal Water Quality Project. As with the change above, we anticipate the eligibility map to be updated on July 1. As long as we can confirm eligibility of an address at the time of pre-inspection, we can offer RainWise rebates for the installation.

RainWise Process Improvements

Your RainWise team is working hard to make this program work well for Seattle residents and our RainWise approved contractors. We are excited to share a couple of improvement efforts underway!

Two people standing in a garden outside their home highlighting their new RainWise cistern.

Prospective Customer Pre-consultation: Bill Malatinsky (SPU RainWise Outreach Lead) is in the early stages of developing a pilot program to offer 30-minute virtual consultations with prospective RainWise customers. During the consultation, we hope to learn about what type of project they're interested in, help evaluate whether their property is compatible with RainWise, and direct them to next steps in selecting a contractor. This process should streamline the customer intake steps for RainWise contractors. We hope to launch this service in summer and would love your help in developing our questions and process. If you have insights or suggestions to share, please reach out to Bill at bill.malatinsky@seattle.gov.

Rebate Process Improvements with Seattle by Design: Tasha Bassett (SPU RainWise Program Support) is leading a project that aims to streamline and digitize the RainWise rebate process. The first step is user research being conducted with the City's Office of Innovation and Performance through a pilot project called Seattle by Design. This project is pairing City programs with volunteers from US Digital Response, a nonprofit that partners with government programs to help improve processes and better serve their communities. We are excited about this project and look forward to incorporating your input as it moves forward. If you have suggestions about how we can improve the rebate paperwork, please share your thoughts with Tasha at tasha.bassett@seattle.gov.

Notes and Reminders

Woman standing next to a cistern in the SCC warehouse

Cistern Purchasing Program / Cypress Design tanks: Contractors have access to the RainWise cistern purchasing program partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation and Seattle Conservation Corps (SCC). To purchase a cistern through the SCC, please follow the process outlined on the Contractor Resources page under "Additional Information."

Where do you get replacement parts? Rex Davis (SPU RainWise Lead Inspector) is compiling a list of resources for customers who need replacement parts for their installations. Please send any recommendations to rex.davis@seattle.gov.

RainWise Access Grants: A wonderful partnership between King County and nonprofit Stewardship Partners offers RainWise Access Grants, which provide up to an additional $1,000 for RainWise eligible homeowners and non-profit community organizations (including religious groups) to bridge the gap between the rebate amount and actual project costs for income-limited and underserved communities. Learn more

Earth Month Highlight

Garden background with text "Show us your solution, Design Futurist, Pacific Horticulture" and website address pacifichorticulture.org/design-futurist

Pacific Horticulture Magazine’s Design Futurist Award elevates the power of garden design to achieve climate resilience, steward biodiversity, and connect people with nature -- values already present in RainWise garden installations! The Award is calling for garden designs that are easily replicable, modest in size or designed for intimate neighborhood community use. Deadline July 26, 2023