Have you ever really thought about where the water goes when it rains? In urban areas much of that water is intentionally directed to a storm drain and most of that ends up in a stream. The primary intent -to reduce flooding- is accomplished most of the time, but this storm water transports pollutants, causes stream bank erosion, and makes conditions intolerable for most aquatic life. Many consider it the root cause of all watershed evils!
This system of storm drains, concrete channels and the like seemed a good idea at the time, but as development and urban sprawl increased, so did the storm water runoff and the damage it does. We need to re-think how we manage this water. The answer, strange as it may seem, is to keep this water where it falls and let it soak into the ground. We don’t want your basement to flood, but please do consider what you could do to keep some of your rain on your property. Mother nature protects watersheds and water quality with plants. Our best and easiest option is to mimic nature.
Trees are better than anything man every invented when it comes protecting and improving water quality and they do this in several ways.
- Raindrops falling directly from the sky hit the ground with enough impact to compact soil over time making it more difficult for water to soak in. Raindrops that encounter leaves or branches first don’t hit the ground so hard.
- Leaves, branches and bark catch and hold some rain. Some evaporates and some falls to the ground later, both reduce the chance of run off.
- Roots create a route for water to more easily soak into the soil.
- The network of roots helps hold the soil, reducing erosion.
- Leaf litter under the tree is another place to capture some water. It will also create a soil high in organic matter that acts like a sponge to soak up and hold water.
Perhaps you already have some large trees. Mimic nature again and make this watershed friendly landscape even better by adding layers. Small, understory trees and shrubs will capture even more water. If possible, allow some of your lawn to become a layered landscape too and add some lovely perennials. Please use native plant species and keep your leaf litter.
We should all take responsibility for the rain that falls on our property. One well landscaped property will make a small impact, but collectively we could make a big difference. Join your neighbors to create the largest protected area you can. This will also provide habitat, food and cover for birds and other critters who are now quite dependent on us to provide for them.
WATER QUALITY BEGINS AT HOME