How St Joseph’s Primary School saved $20,000 when installing a raingarden

St Joseph’s students joined hands-on catchment care to raise $20,000 through Living Water Workbees, allowing them to install rainwater tanks and a raingarden of indigenous plants, funded through the Victorian Government’s Port Phillip Bay Fund. 85% of the water used in St Joseph’s Primary School (Elsternwick) is now supplied from their tanks; and during heavy rain, stormwater is slowed and filtered by the gardens before flowing to our Bay.

Rainwater runs off hard surfaces of our urban environment through stormwater drains into Port Phillip Bay, carrying pollutants, nutrients, and litter along the way. Heavy rain events also impact the timing, speed and volume of water flowing into the system. Stormwater runoff disturb waterway habitat, can lead to urban flooding, and make beaches unsuitable for swimming.

Rainwater tanks and raingardens are water-sensitive urban design tools that capture stormwater, and reduce stress to our local rivers and creeks. Raingardens increase natural groundcover and provide habitat, and divert stormwater to be filtered through the wetland system. When installing rainwater tanks and raingardens on properties, you play an important role in water quality improvement, caring for wildlife in our creeks and the Bay, and preparing the neighbourhood for extreme climate events.

The raingarden that St Joseph’s Primary School, Elsternwick installed on their campus, using credit rebates from the Living Water Workbees program. Students can play and interact with the wetland system, with a hand and bicycle pump that pumps out stormwater from the tank. 

The EcoCentre’s Living Water Workbees program enables community to earn rebate credits for installing rainwater tanks and raingardens at their home, business, or local school. Any member of the community can join family-friendly workbees to help our waterways, such as beach and street clean-ups, tree planting, and wildlife surveys. Volunteer hours are converted to a $25 per hour rebate credit.

“The students learnt so much from the clean-up action and EcoCentre education activities, which allowed them to link their learning and actions to better understand the impacts that we have on Elster Creek and Bay habitat. The process to install raintanks and raingardens was straight forward. The raingarden is great, as it allows students to see and interact with what they have achieved from the Living Water Workbees project.”
Teacher, St Joseph’s Primary School, Elsternwick

St Joseph’s Primary School organised a whole school clean-up action day in 2018, involving students, parents, grandparents, and volunteers with Love Our Street Elwood, which raised $20,000 worth of rebate credits. Many community partners of Living Water Workbees also donated their credits to the school, allowing St Joseph’s to purchase a rainwater tank and raingarden.

Students from St Joseph's Primary School, Elsternwick, on a street litter clean-up as part of their Living Water Workbee.

Student sustainability leaders worked with the EcoCentre to assess the schoolground and create a vision board for their raingarden, with aims to include indigenous plants, logs and rocks, a stream, natural groundcover, and play space. St Joseph’s sustainability teacher consulted with a landscape company to design the raingarden, incorporating both educational interactive features with the functional ability for the raingarden to divert stormwater.

For other schools or communities interested in installing a rainwater tank or raingarden through the Living Water Workbees program, EcoCentre educators can deliver a tailor-made workbee as an incursion or excursion for schools within the Elster Creek Catchment (most schools in the City of Glen Eira, and some parts of the City of Port Phillip and City of Bayside) or the Werribee River Catchment (schools in the City of Wyndham and City of Hobsons Bay). This workbee can range from a whole school clean-up day to a curriculum-specific activity for a particular year level. This is a great opportunity for students to learn about the ecosystem of our local waterways and the human impacts caused through stormwater drains.

Students from St Joseph's Primary School, Elsternwick, attended workshops delivered by the EcoCentre as part of their involvement in the Living Water Workbees program.

From July to December 2018, 1,317 volunteers participated in 31 Living Water Workbees, collecting almost 600kg of litter and raising over $52,000 of rebate credits for their homes or for local schools. To find out about upcoming volunteering events for Living Water Workbees, visit the Living Water Workbees website.

If your school is interested in working with the EcoCentre to arrange a workbee, get in touch with Reiko at

Our preferred green plumbing partner for Living Water Workbees is PJT Green Plumbing.

The Living Water Workbees project is funded by the Victorian Government from 2017-2020 through the Port Phillip Bay Fund.

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The EcoCentre acknowledges the Kulin Nations, including the Yalukut Weelam clan of the Boon Wurrung language group, traditional owners of the land on which we are located.

We pay respects to their Elders past and present, and extend that respect to other Aboriginal and Elder members of our multicultural community.