Rainy Days and Mondays…ain’t it swale?

yard fairy recycling-rain350It’s a March Monday in Akron and of course it’s soggy out there. Rain, hail, sleet, ice glaze, snow…a potpourri of delightful precipitation that never seems to end.  It’s only apropos that I launch into a discussion on stormwater runoff.
I was recently appointed by Turf magazine to write about bioswales and rain gardens for one of their upcoming issues.  Greenscaping (i.e. rain gardens, bioswales, permeable pavers, xeriscaping, composting, green roofs) is finally becoming a “hot, hot, hot” opportunity for landscapers.  It’s about time!
As I put together the research and interview of four experts in sustainable landscaping, I was in disbelief about the enormous problem of stormwater runoff throughout the country.  So glad I have a blog to share some of the amazing facts about the problem of stormwater runoff that I didn’t have room to include in the article, but needed to splash around as much as possible in other ways.
When it rains, it pours…here’s just a few factoids to soak in, many contributed by my new “swimming” buddy Tom Barrett of Greenwater Infrastructure, Indianapolis:
  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now considers pollution from all diffuse sources, including urban stormwater pollution, to be the most important source of contamination in our nation’s waters
  • The EPA ranks urban runoff and storm-sewer discharges as the second most prevalent source of water quality impairment in our nation’s estuaries, and the fourth most prevalent source of impairment of our lakes
  • As of May 1999, states and the EPA have issued more than 260 permits affecting some 850 operators, including larger cities operating separate storm sewer hickory rain gardensystems, which requires them to develop stormwater management plans.
  • To grasp the magnitude of the stormwater runoff problem, consider that there are 500 million surface parking lots in the U.S. alone. In some cities, parking lots take up one-third of all land area, “becoming the single most salient landscape feature of our built environment,” Ben-Joseph writes.
  • Fifty years ago, 90 percent of rainwater stayed locally, soaking into the ground. Today, 70 percent of the rainwater gets flushed into our sewer systems.
  •  Separating the overflow of the rainwater has become the largest infrastructure project in the history of all its cities
  • The single largest polluter is stormwater runoff. According to the EPA, its the number two source of pollution on their five year plan.
  •  In the last 40 years in the US, we have increased impermeable surfaces by 40 percent. The regulations to provide adequate parking spaces for big box retail establishments and the ever-increasing lanes of traffic are a few examples of just how we are experiencing the paving over of America.
Right here in Akron, one of the 180 communities fingered by the EPA for stormwater runoff ruination, it’s great to see a comprehensive clean-up plan and sewer separation plan from Summit County Countywide Storm Water Management Program (SWMP).
A wonderful county agency, Summit Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD)  is doing a great job promoting rain gardens and bioswales for Akron area businesses and residents.
Here’s a departing Trivia Question:
Q:  Who designed the first rain gardens?  A:  The Mayans on the Yucatan Peninsula…and they also did a better job of managing stormwater than us so far…
maya garden