Tree Box Filters


Photo of a tree box filter.

Tree box filter (Source: City of Reno, NV)

Tree box filters are in-ground containers typically containing street trees in urban areas. Runoff is directed to the tree box, where it is filtered by vegetation and soil before entering a catch basin. Tree box filters adapt bioretention principles used in rain gardens to enhance pollutant removal, improve reliability, standardize and increase ease of construction, and reduce maintenance costs.

Design Variations

The number and dimensions of tree box filters are adjusted according to the stormwater management objectives of a given subwatershed.

Stormwater Management Objectives


Individual tree box filters hold a relatively small volume of stormwater (100 - 300 gallons), but concerted use throughout a stormwater drainage area will decrease the total volume of discharged stormwater.

Peak Discharge

Tree box filters decrease peak discharge by detaining stormwater volume and by increasing discharge duration. Use of numerous tree box filters in a stormwater drainage area can have an impact on total discharge energy and flow rates.

Water Quality

Tree box filters have a high removal rate of pollutants in stormwater, as they have similar mechanisms and pollutant removal capabilities as rain gardens and vegetated roofs. They also provide the added value of aesthetics while making efficient use of available land for stormwater management.

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