Planting the Seeds

October 7, 2014

Featured

Soil Science Society of America suggests ways individuals can reduce runoff
 
The green street, Blue Island Avenue and Cermak Road in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, features vegetated planters, bioswales, rain gardens and below-ground infiltration basins. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) started monitoring the area in 2009 to find that the street caputures up to 80% of a 25.4-mm (1-in.) in 5-hour storm. Photo courtesy of Dan Wendt, MWRD.

The green street, Blue Island Avenue and Cermak Road in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, features vegetated planters, bioswales, rain gardens and below-ground infiltration basins. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) started monitoring the area in 2009 to find that the street caputures up to 80% of a 25.4-mm (1-in.) in 5-hour storm. Photo courtesy of Dan Wendt, MWRD.

When it comes to preventing contaminants in stormwater runoff from entering waterways, the crux of the problem is spread between point sources, nonpoint sources, and even regular citizens. But the average joe may need some advice regarding what exactly he or she can do to help. The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA; Madison, Wis.) recently listed three measures that can help reduce stormwater runoff. They are as simple as sustainable gardening, properly managing green spaces, and communication with customer bases.

Step 1. Conserve the soil

MWRD has been composting biosolids and woodchips to manage solids and woodchips generated by ash trees killed by emerald ash borer and to offer a product to landscapers, turf maangers, community gardeners, and other local groups. Photo courtesy of Wendt, MWRD.

MWRD has been composting biosolids and woodchips to manage solids and woodchips generated by ash trees killed by emerald ash borer. It offers the product to landscapers, turf mangers, community gardeners, and other local groups. Photo courtesy of Wendt, MWRD.

Conserving green spaces and caring for existing soil is central to creating healthy soil, according to an SSSA news release. Reducing soil compaction and erosion and promoting soil health also are necessary to improve stormwater management. According to SSSA, the strategies to conserve soil include

  • modifying soils with compost,
  • letting leaves and grass clippings decompose in-place to restore organic matter in the soil,
  • using compost socks and berms to prevent erosion in areas under construction, and
  • planting trees and native plants in areas where soil is bare.

Step 2. Install a green infrastructure feature

Rain barrels capture rainwater to help prevent overflows and flooding and to provide water for watering lawns or washing cars. Photo courtesy of Wendt, MWRD.

Rain barrels capture rainwater to help prevent overflows and flooding and to provide water for watering lawns or washing cars. Photo courtesy of Wendt, MWRD.

Green infrastructure features such as residential rain gardens can reduce flooding while increasing property values, according to the news release. Individuals also can implement other green infrastructure strategies to reduce runoff such as installing rain barrels or cisterns, disconnecting downspouts, and installing green roofs. Municipality incentive programs can share the cost of construction with citizens.

Step 3. Create a community

Volunteers help build a rain garden at the Haines Elementary School in Chicago for the WEFTEC 2013 Reading, Writing, and Rain Gardens service project. Photo courtesy of Wendt, MWRD.

Volunteers help build a rain garden at the Haines Elementary School in Chicago for the WEFTEC 2013 Reading, Writing, and Rain Gardens service project. Photo courtesy of Wendt, MWRD.

 

The impact of the first two strategies will be enhanced if they are implemented at a community level, the news release says. For example, “clustering rain gardens in a designated area, such as a neighborhood block, allows pooling of resources, the potential for shared maintenance, and a greater collective impact on runoff,” according to the release.

To inspire community-focused stormwater projects, SSSA suggests

  • holding community events to educate neighborhoods about the issues surrounding stormwater runoff;
  • reaching out to landscapers, nurseries, and other vendors who might be willing to give bulk discounts for group projects;
  • posting signage in yards and along parking strips where projects have been built to bring attention to the economic and environmental values of green infrastructure; and
  • organizing tours of rain garden projects to inspire other communities to create their own projects.

— LaShell Stratton‒Childers, WEF Highlights

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