Have you ever wondered where rainwater goes once it hits the ground? During the water cycle, stormwater is absorbed into the soil and filters into (and replenishes) streams and rivers, completing the cycle. Healthy watersheds play a critical role in helping ecosystems function and sustaining human, plant, and animal life within them.
But just as vast amounts of concrete and pavement interfere with temperature and storage of heat throughout the day, these impervious surfaces also impede the ability of precipitation to soak into the ground (and complete the natural water cycle). Instead, water funnels into storm drains, sewer systems, and stormwater infrastructure. This runoff can carry chemicals, litter, and other pollutants into our waterways and ultimately our drinking supply. This can cause flooding, erosion, damage to infrastructure, and storm/sewer system overflow.
The good news is we can help to mitigate these negative impacts by thinking of your parcel of land as the miniature watershed that it is. Here’s how.
Install more plants and trees in purposeful places.
Plants, trees, and soil absorb water and reduce erosion. In Kentucky, black gum and bald cypress are native trees that are well suited to the environment and for stormwater absorption. But, crucially, it’s not just about planting more. It’s also about where you choose to plant; ideally, the area in your green space most at risk for erosion and runoff. When you plant more, and plant more intentionally, you are able to reduce both run-off and pollutants carried away in the stormwater.
Reduce impervious surfaces.
Everything on your grounds is part of the ecosystem — not just the green space. Your roof, parking lot, sidewalks, and patio spaces all contribute to both the heat island effect and the ability of stormwater to absorb into the ground. Connect these spaces to the rest of the ecosystem by reducing impervious surfaces. Rain gardens, green roofs, anp permeable pavers allow water to seep through, reducing runoff and improving overall water quality.
But first: conserve.
Still, most landscapes need, in some form, supplemental water. Even landscapes with native plants and green infrastructure. But, there are ways to reduce this water consumption: rainwater harvesting, recycling and reusing graywater (decontaminated water from sinks, showers, and washing machines or dishwashers), and implementing new technologies that reduce the demand for water at the source.
Want to learn more about how to manage your watershed? Contact us. Plant more native species. Reduce your facility’s water consumption. Consider improving your green infrastructure.