Friday, December 14, 2012

Raindrops are fallin'

Salt Lake City area is no stranger to floods. Some remember State Street becoming a river in 1983. Even recently in 2011, where plenty of people (including myself) had flooded basements due to our high water year. Scientists are predicting that more extreme weather patterns are going to occur more frequently.  Easy to see here: we’ve had a record water year followed by a record dry year. So how do we stay Women of Water and not Women in Water when the next 100-year flood comes?

There are several answers out there to help lower your blood pressure. The one I’m offering has more than one benefit: Green Infrastructure.

Green Infra-what??
No, no, no…I’m not telling you to paint your house green or rebuild it using bamboo.  Green infrastructure is a technique incorporating vegetation and soil to handle rainwater in a natural process.  Even though you may not know it, you’ve heard about green infrastructure before.  Rain gardens, rain harvesting, porous pavement, green roofs…these are all examples of green infrastructure. So how are these small little things going to make a world of difference?

Before I take off on these fun little green details, let’s get down to why flooding occurs so fast.  To start, mother nature dumps a good rain storm. Now, if Salt Lake was completely void of roads and buildings, flooding would happen less often.  But we’ve got houses, big box stores, parking lots, roads…all of these things that prevent rainwater from naturally percolating into the ground.  Instead, it’s rushed away from these developments, into a storm drain, and then into the nearest water body.  The stormwater has no chance to be managed! So our rivers and streams over flow and back up and then we call FEMA.

Now, here are some things we all can do to help protect our community from flooding.
  • Plant a rain garden or vegetation strip. Raingarden_zps5ca21f85  Willows and other native plants uptake stormwater and reduce the flow of water into storm drains by 90%! They also recharge groundwater, filter out pollutants, and have an aesthetic appeal.
  • Harvest your rainwater! RainBarrel_zpsbdd08c01 It’s legal to have one 2500 gallon underground barrel or two 100 gallon above ground barrels.  All you have to do is register online with Utah Division of Water Rights and buy your supplies.  Tons of set-ups are available online to make harvesting a piece of cake. You’ll end up putting less stormwater down the drain and you’ll save on your water bill.
  • Use porous pavement! permeablepavement_zpsb6941f69  There are different kinds of surfacing materials you can use to help water permeate into the ground.  When you decide to re-pave your driveway, use pervious concrete, porous asphalt, or paving stones (for that chic cobble stone effect). The cost is pretty much the same and you can feel good that water isn’t cascading off your driveway.
All of these techniques are cost effective, user friendly, and they work! Get a group together and make a rain garden for your community (hint, hint WoW activity committee J ). Do a tree planting or take advantage of native plant sales. Using green infrastructure will help protect us all from the next big storm and make a positive impact on our water.

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