Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Less Rain Down the Drain

Most rain that falls on hard surfaces like roofs, driveways, roads, and parking lots flows directly into our creeks and rivers.  These high flows carry pollutants, cause flooding, erode streambanks and disturb habitat.  In contrast rainfall on natural surfaces like forests and meadows soaks into the ground, replenishing groundwater and streams.  Rainscapes are landscape enhancements that reduce stormwater runoff from properties.   Rainscapes simulate natural drainage to intercept, capture and absorb rain into the ground. 
Protect our headwater streams through Rainscapes.
Rainscaping helps to reduce: stormwater runoff from properties, drainage problems, pollution entering streams, water use during dry spells, water bills, mowing, fertilizer and pesticide use and rainscapes can enhance aesthetics, bird and other wildlife habitat, and property values.   As homeowners and property managers become more aware of the issues of stormwater management many of them are choosing to manage the runoff from their homes and businesses with rainscapes.

Examples of Rainscapes:  
Rain gardens - shallow depressions and serve as landscape features that can effectively collect and treat stormwater and reduce localized flooding.  Rain gardens can be integrated into the existing landscape as a retrofit or be included in the initial landscaping plan.
Dispersing water from downspouts - A downspout is a vertical pipe used to drain rainwater away from buildings to protect foundations. They are usually directed onto a driveway, or into a pipe or ditch that flows to a creek. Disconnecting the downspout flow from this system keeps rainfall on-site to spread over grass, landscaping, or into a wooded area.  How to install? The procedure for disconnecting the downspout will vary depending on where you want to direct the water. If the runoff from your roof flows directly onto pavement, consider using downspout extenders to direct the water to a grassed, wooded, or landscaped area. Runoff collected in a rain barrel or cistern can reduce your water bill. Dispersing from a downspout may involve cutting the downspout; attaching elbows, extensions, and splashblocks to direct the water flow away from the house or into a rainbarrel. There is very little maintenance involved afterwards.
Rainbarrels and Cisterns- A rainwater harvesting system, including small rainbarrels and larger cisterns, captures stormwater runoff from a roof and stores the water for later use. A rainwater harvesting system can be used to wash cars, outdoor furniture, or water gardens—even when water restrictions prevent the use of municipal water for those purposes. The chlorine-free rainwater also contains nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus that can help plants grow when it is used for irrigation. By using rainwater for purposes that don’t require treated drinking water, we reduce the demand on municipal water supplies and increase the sustainability of drinking water supplies.
Conservation Planting - Conservation plantings use native and/or drought tolerant plants that are adapted to local rainfall and soil conditions to replace part of your traditional lawn. When established, conservation plantings need much less maintenance than a lawn, though weeding and mulching will help keep it looking attractive.
Protect streams by planting trees and shrubs on the banks.
Tree Planting - By controlling erosion, reducing runoff through infiltration, and trapping sediment and toxins, trees help communities to save money. Trees lower temperatures through shade and evapotranspiration, which reduces energy needs and costs. Trees raise the value of homes and attract businesses and tourism. Urban trees reduce the “heat island effect,” cooling our cities by as much as 9 degrees. Trees remove harmful gases that contribute to smog, acid rain, and the greenhouse effect.
Info in this article is from the NC State WECO website: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/agecon/WECO/rainscaping.htm

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