In the Trail Woods residential community of Norman, Okla., a rain garden experiment is under way. On one side of a cul-de-sac, rain gardens are installed next to the street, and on the other side, grass extends to the curb. The University of Oklahoma will monitor the performance of the rain gardens and compile its findings in a report. The demonstration projects are designed to improve the condition of Lake Thunderbird, Norman’s drinking water source, which is impaired with phosphorus.

The homebuilder, Ideal Homes, designed the rain gardens to look like an ordinary garden amenity and to be aesthetically pleasing. However, they faced several challenges implementing the gardens, including dense, clay soil; working with city officials, since most low-impact development is not coverd by the city code; and working around underground utilities.