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Blog Action Day 2010: Water

October 15, 2010

Welcome to Blog Action Day 2010! Every year on October 15th, bloggers all over the world write about one issue, in order to raise awareness and start a discussion amongst their readers. This year’s topic is water, especially suitable for OUJ, as it’s at the heart of so many environmental and conservation issues in urban areas.

I thought it appropriate to tell you a bit about what we’ve done in our yard to reduce storm water run-off. Because we have paved so much of our world, rain water that used to percolate down into the soil (and therefore into our water table) now runs off cement and other impermeable surfaces before it hits storm sewers in our city’s gutters. In some older cities, like DC, antiquated sewer systems still exist with combined sewage/storm water tunnels. Basically, when we have real gully-washers, our old sewers can become so overfilled with water (combined storm water and sewage) that raw sewage can overflow into our local waterways (the Anacostia, Rock Creek, and so on). Ick. Obviously, this not only causes problems in our own local watersheds, but has implications in the greater Chesapeake watershed — and eventually the waste ends up in the ocean (water and what’s in it has a sneaky habit of finding its way to our coasts).

Of course, not all municipalities have combined systems, but run-off is still a problem. Think about everything that ends up on our sidewalks — oil, toxins such as herbicides and pesticides, garbage, dog scat, and so on — and imagine it running into your local stream, from their into your local river, and from there into the ocean.

So, what to do? At the very least we can all take responsibility for the paved surfaces on our own property — our roofs, patios, walkways, driveways, and garages (although we personally don’t have to worry about those last two). Rain barrels are becoming increasingly popular, and have the added benefit of letting you save water for leaner days. However, in climates such as ours where water isn’t that limited most of the time, their main benefit might be to help keep pollutants out of our waterways. It makes sense if you think about it — in a huge storm, a rain barrel isn’t going to be able to contain all of the water that runs off of your roof, but it will collect that initial water that hits your roof, and presumably carries with it a lot of the pollutants up there.

Because our rain barrels (pictured here) won’t contain all of the run-off from our roofs, we also had a rain garden built into our front yard. Basically, it’s a huge pit that was backfilled with construction rubble, allowing water to be captured and held until it’s able to soak into the soil. All three of our rain barrels’ overflow spouts go into this rain garden, so it takes quite a storm for our roof water to hit the pavement.

Our backyard has three levels to it, the top-most being a rather steep hill. When we redid the yard (a major project!), we leveled off the middle part (which also used to be a hill) and added some french drains to capture water that runs down the hill. We are also planting lots of ground cover to help hold onto that water in the first place.

It’s not perfect (we didn’t find a reasonable way of holding onto the water that hits our patio, for example), but we now contain the majority of run-off from our property. There are a lot of resources out there to help you with this (for example, Aquabarrel is a locally owned and operated company that sells rain barrels and other water retention supplies, will come to your house to help you plan out a system, and will even do the installation), so let’s save some rain water!



One of the pups and some of our native plants


One Comment leave one →
  1. October 15, 2010 12:18 pm

    Thanks for this post!
    Please read and share my post about Water’s footprint in Fashion
    You can make the difference!

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