get help installing and paying for rain barrels, trees, rain gardens, and bayscaping at your home?


1. Learn about this resource. 

Homeowners can get help installing and paying for green projects that reduce the amount of polluted water running off their property. We—DC Government—offer reduced prices and installation help for:

  • Rain barrels to catch and store rain to use later to water your garden or wash your car. You pay $50 or $70 per rain barrel (up to two on each property).

  • Rain gardens to collect rain and filter out pollution. You pay $100 per 50 square foot of rain garden (up to two on each property).

  • Shade trees to help hold rain in the soil. We plant shade trees for free.

  • Bayscaping to replace grass or bare soil with native plants that hold rain and reduce erosion. You pay $100 per 120 square foot of native plant garden (up to two on each property).


In addition, we can check if it makes sense to replace any concrete or asphalt surfaces at your home with permeable pavement that captures and temporarily stores rain. Unlike other types of green projects, we don’t offer installation help for permeable pavement, but you can get a rebate.


This program is called RiverSmart Homes and is offered by the Department of Energy & Environment, in partnership with Casey Trees and Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, local nonprofits.

2. Check if you are eligible.

You are eligible if you live in a single-family home or a building with four or fewer units in DC. If you rent your home, you’ll need permission from your landlord. You don’t need to live in DC to apply, as long as the property you’re applying for is in DC.

3. Apply.

Submit an application online or by phone at (202) 535-2252, Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. This puts you on the waitlist for a site visit, when we—DC Government—will assess which types of green projects will work best at your home. You can apply at any time.

4. Gather more information.

What happens after I apply?

  1. If you’re eligible, we—DC Government—will send you an email letting you know that you’ve been added to the waitlist and when you can expect us to do the site visit at your home. You could be on the waitlist for 3-5 months depending on the time of year.
  2. When it’s your turn, we’ll email or call you to schedule a site visit at your home, which takes approximately one hour. Before your site visit, you’ll sign an agreement to maintain your green projects. The projects will need regular attention to make sure they're working correctly, and we’ll provide you with guidance and videos on how to care of them.
  3. Within 2-3 weeks, we’ll email you or send a paper copy of a report outlining the types of green projects that will work best on your property and what you would need to pay for each. We offer reduced prices compared to what it would usually cost for you to purchase and install green projects on your own.
  4. You’ll email or call us to let us know which of the approved green projects you’d like our help with.
  5. We will connect you with our nonprofit partners who can help you with your installation. They will work with you to schedule the design and installation plan. The waitlist for installation is about 2-3 months for rain barrels and shade trees. It can take up to six months for rain gardens and bayscaping.
  6. Once installation is complete, you will pay the reduced price to us.
  7. We may randomly choose your home for an inspection sometime after your installation to check that everything is working properly. We’ll let you know at least 24 hours in advance if your home has been selected for inspection.
If your property is not eligible, we’ll email or call you within one business day after you apply.

Are there any additional requirements I should know about?

You’ll need to maintain your green project regularly to make sure it’s working properly, but it may take less time and effort than traditional yard care. Our nonprofit partners will provide you guidance and walk you through a maintenance agreement, which outlines what you’re responsible for as a homeowner.

Who should I contact if I have questions?

First, take a look at the frequently asked questions at the bottom of the page. If you still have questions, please reach out to our RiverSmart Homes team at (202) 535-2252, Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Or, you can email us at using the subject line “RiverSmart Homes Question.”

I still need help making my home more environmentally friendly. What should I do?

You can find information about other resources that help make your home more environmentally friendly.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many green projects can I get help with? We’ll look at your home during our in-person site visit to see what will work best and approve green projects for you to choose from. To serve as many homes as we can, we can only provide each home with up to two rain barrels and up to two landscaping projects, which includes rain gardens and bayscaping. What are my other options to get financial assistance with green projects? We—DC Government—also offer rebates for green roofs, permeable surfaces, rain gardens, rain barrels, and tree plantings. Our rebate programs are open to any property owner, including residential, commercial, and community space. The eligibility criteria, application process, and amount of rebate vary depending on the type of green projects, and you may need to apply before installation. Unlike RiverSmart Homes, our rebate programs do not offer help with installation and reimburse you after you’ve fully paid for the project. A rebate program might be a better fit for you than RiverSmart Homes if you prefer to:

  • have more control over the design of your green projects
  • avoid long wait times to be assigned to an installer
  • select your own installer or install it yourself
Can I get any other financial assistance for installing a rain barrel? Yes! When you apply for this program, we’ll help you apply for a discount on your DC Water bill, called RiverSmart Rewards. This discount is for property owners who prevent runoff on their property with qualifying green projects, like rain barrels. How do these green projects help the city of DC? Green projects, like rain barrels, rain gardens, and shade trees, help reduce the amount of polluted rainwater running off your property and into your rivers. This helps us protect the Anacostia River, Potomac River, and Rock Creek from harmful pollution. Can I try to reapply for the program if I am not approved? Yes. If you weren’t eligible before, you can apply again if you believe changes to your situation might make you eligible. If you were eligible before and we sent you a report from our site visit at your home, you don’t need to reapply. You can request the installation of green projects approved on your report by responding to the person who sent you the report or by calling (202) 535-2252.

Do all eligible applicants receive help with green projects?

Yes. Because more people apply than we have funding to serve in a year, you may be put on a waitlist for 3+ months.

This resource is provided by:

Keywords: homeowners, renters, green home, manage rainwater, landscaping, single-family home, sustainability, reduce pollution, polluted water, plant trees, tree planting

This page was last updated May 2021.

Department of Energy and Environment