Preserving the Environment

When Stormwater Runoff is a Problem in Your Community, Rain Gardens Can Be the Answer

July 18, 2014
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When Stormwater Runoff is a Problem in Your Community, Rain Gardens Can Be the Answer
A rain garden, a shallow garden along the path of storm runoff, helps prevent water contamination by slowing and filtering rainwater. Screengrab via Vimeo
What's not to love about saving the environment and beautifying your neighborhood at the same time?

While the expression “April showers bring May flowers” is true, it doesn’t address the fact that sometimes, rain can do more harm than good. That’s true in many parts of the U.S., especially in some urban communities, where stormwater runoff is a serious problem.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, stormwater can pick up anything from household bleach to plastic bags, traveling into a storm sewer system or directly into a body of water where residents fish, swim, and receive drinking water from.

“A lot of people think runoff gets treated. It doesn’t,”Laura Eldred, an environmental program specialist with Environmental Conservation told The Alaska Dispatch News. “A lot of this runoff is going to end up in our creeks and our lakes.”

But there is a way to prevent and minimize harmful stormwater runoff that can create toxic and sewage-filled waterfronts or shores: Planting a rain garden. These green areas can help absorb and filter rain water, reducing the amount of runoff. According to EcoWatch, a rain garden, “is a plant bed grown in a shallow, landscaped depression where water naturally flows, which slows and filters rainwater. Plants and soil filter pollutants in the water and allow runoff to percolate slowly into the soil, recharging groundwater supplies.”

In other words, think of it as an eco-friendly sponge.

Rain gardens are popping up in communities nationwide. In Alaska, The Palmer Garden is filtering runoff from the Mat-Su Senior Services building parking lot before it heads towards the Matanuska River. And at Hackler Intermediate School in Arkansas, a rain garden was built to pick up pollutants that are dumped into Dodd Creek and end up into the Mountain Home city’s water sources.

How can you jump on the eco-friendly bandwagon and create your own personal rain garden? Here’s a step-by-step guide, courtesy of The Rain Garden Network.

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MORE: From LED Lighting to Waterless Toilets: Buildings and Cities Are Prioritizing Sustainable Solutions

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