Rain Gardens: A refuge for runoff
Urban communities are taking a stand. You might have missed a little hidden gem taking a stroll down concrete jungle. Tucked in the depression of the ground, the water that quickly streams down the asphalt after an episode of rain is slowed down when it flows into what’s called, a rain garden. Just as the name suggests, it’s a garden that has everything to do with rain.
Sidewalks, parking lots, driveways, roofs and compacted lawns are the top culprits for runoff and are also known as impervious surfaces. In Vancouver alone, it is estimated that 50% of the area is covered with impervious surfaces. (10% is threshold that separates minor impact to significant impact on a neighboring watershed [http://www.env.gov.bc.ca]). Impervious surfaces allow water to bypass the absorption process, transporting it, often to storm drainage where it then enters a nearby waterway. This undoubtedly affects the saturation of the surrounding ground and ultimately affects the natural landscapes.
Local schools, churches, business complexes and grocery stores are doing something really great in a small way. Nice rain gardens are being created next to parking lots, sidewalks, driveways and overly manicured sitting lower in the ground and filled with native plants that help slow the drainage process and help the water percolate through to the thirsty soil beneath. Not only that, it improves water quality, protects rivers and streams, reduces mosquito breeding (Can we get an amen for that?), reduces potential of home flooding and creates habitats for birds and butterflies (Birds and butterflies? I’m in!). Best of all, you can easily create your own rain garden! http://www.raingardens.org offers great tips on how to get started!
So next time you take a stroll down the way, take a moment to see the small things that can amount to a big difference.
Cougar Canyon Elementary School is one example of how a school community saw a problem and found a simple solution, and not only that, found an attractive one too.
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