I am writing this after taking a walk around our property in the pouring rain. It is after a fairly hard freeze.
I have been waiting for this scenario for a while now, for a reason. I was checking on the condition of our “stormwater infrastructure.” I am glad to report that conditions and performance are just about where I want them.
Let me explain:
Forty-six years ago, my wife, Barbara, and I bought this house in a little five-house subdivision at the low end of a muddy, unpaved dead end street. We could have picked any of the houses at that time, they were all the same price; but we liked the one with a view to the woods on one side. Peaceful and quiet, gradually our wonderful new neighbors started to buy the other original four homes and then more were built on the street. Then came the paving of the street! Suddenly, any runoff from other properties, and the sheet flow of the asphalt, was fast-tracked in a torrent down to that low end of the street, right smack into our side and back yards. Yikes! Our introduction to stormwater management.
Since that time, we got some eventual grading help from the township and have carefully researched how to manage not only waters from other sources coming in, but also how to keep our own water safely on our property without flooding our basement or contributing to community stormwater and pollution loads. We also learned a lot about the role of swales, rain gardens, native plants, soil health, mulching, composting, rain barrels, downspout fittings, chemical-free yard maintenance and balancing the use of lawn space.
When I took my walk in the rain today, the side rain garden was happily receiving the water piped over from the main roof downspout, while mitigating water from a compacted utility road just past our fence line. The back yard, with excellent plant layering and soil structure now, showed no signs of puddling, only infiltration and sequestration by the native plants, bushes, trees and our beautiful and absorptive moss lawn. Right around the house, the rain barrels are closed for the winter, but bypass pipes send the water to more rain garden swales. The front, facing the street, where runoff usually would occur, is quiet against the street water racing by. Lined with absorptive bushes, tall native grass clumps and leaf-mulched flower beds, there is no water that gets past. A strip of crushed stone provides parking space between yard and street, as well as some absorption of that street flow. The only thing I want to change is the sheet flow from our concrete driveway into the street, by cutting in a diversion trough, sending that water into adjacent flower beds before any water hits the street.
I will be following up on this topic, not so much about my own experience, but how we all, as a community, can help to solve some of our stormwater runoff, flood vulnerability, erosion and waterway pollution problems. Much of this can be done, sustainably, by some simple methods. You must know, though, that there are hard choices being made about future planning requirements to deal not only with stormwater runoff, water pollution and debris, but also in resiliency, emergency services, public infrastructure and the restoration of lands to be more in tune with natural processes.
In the meantime, take a walk in the rain, see where the water flows from and then, where it goes .