What Is Conservation Design?

Growing Green Communities

Rain Gardens

Rain gardens are areas filled with hydrophilic native prairie plants instead of turf. They are strategically placed near impervious surfaces such as driveways, sidewalks, and under gutters to soak up the excess water. Native plants and flowers have a deeper root system than lawn turf, thereby slowing the flow of water over the surface of the landscape, increasing infiltration of water into the water table, and filtering the water to reducing pollutants released in ground water.


Bioswales are depressed channels of land filled with hydrophilic native prairie plants used to convey stormwater runoff. They help maintain the ground water level and filter out pollutants. Bioswales are very effective in managing excess rainwater and function like rain gardens on a larger scale.

Level Spreaders

A level spreader is a device used to disperse concentrated runoff uniformly over the ground surface as sheet flow to prevent soil erosion and groundwater pollution. Level spreaders convey runoff from impervious surfaces onto vegetated areas of hydrophilic native prairie plants to slow and filter stormwater runoff before it reaches the water table.

Permeable Pavement

Permeable paving options center on the use of paving blocks with spaces for rainwater to penetrate and filter into the ground. Impervious surfaces such as concrete and asphalt block the absorption of rainwater and result in urban runoff and flooding. Interlocking concrete blocks that allow vegetation to poke through reduce the quantity of runoff and the amount of pollutants that ultimately reach the water table.

Conservation Easements

A conservation easement is the donation of private land to the government or a qualifying conservation or historic preservation organization to protect the land's use. The donor still owns the land and may sell or rent it, but any future owner must comply with the terms of the easement. Conservation easements ensure that the land will be protected and used in the manner the donor wishes.


A greenway is an environmentally-protected strip of land often following a land or water feature such as a stream or river, or man-made elements such as railways or historic highways. Recreational paths are often constructed near greenways, which provides beautiful scenery and encourages outdoor activities. In addition to aesthetics, the native vegetation of greenways helps filter runoff for cleaner ground water.