Rainwater 101

Rainwater 101

In the hot summer months, learn how to harvest the rainwater we are lucky to receive.  This will not only save you money, but will help to reduce water pollution in bodies of water and will aid in water conservation. 

Problem 1: You have probably noticed the puddles of water that form on sidewalks, roads, parking lots when it rains, or water rushing down streets during a heavy downpour.  Since impervious surfaces, or solid surfaces, prevent water from penetrating through the ground to groundwater, rain water has nowhere to go but down.  Rainwater washes down these impervious surfaces, carrying debris and pollutants (oil, salt in the winter, litter, cigarette butts, etc.), and ends up at the lowest point, usually a stream or river. This water also often flows into storm drains which drain into nearby bodies of water.

Problem 2: Rainwater often causes sewage overflows into streams and rivers.  This can happen because of two different phenomena.  First, many sewage pipes are old and cracked, and when it rains heavily, rainwater can leak into the pipes, overload them, and cause sewage overflows.  Another culprit of sewage overflows are combined sewer systems, where rainwater and sewage flow in the same pipes.  When it rains heavily, or these pipes are overwhelmed quickly (because of water rushing into them from impervious surfaces), they overflow sewage. 

Problem 3: As the effects of climate change are becoming more and more pronounced and the world population continues to grow, conserving our fresh water supply is becoming more important than ever.  Droughts are becoming more severe, and many of our fresh water sources stored in glaciers and ice caps are melting, reducing our supply of drinking water.  In addition, larger populations mean less water per capita.   Water conservation needs to become part of our everyday lifestyle.

The easiest way to begin using rainwater is by installing rain barrels.  Rain barrels attach directly to downspouts, diverting water from stormwater drains to your lawn or garden.  You can buy ready-to-use rain barrels (search online) or you can craft your own out of old food barrels (pickle barrels, etc.) You can save rainwater by closing the spigot until you need to water, or you can follow common practice and simply keep your spigot open all of the time, allowing water to freely drain onto greenspaces.  Check out some of these websites for helpful tips:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGFDlkJOdaM

http://www.rainbarrelguide.com/

http://www.aquabarrel.com/

http://www.ninemilerun.org/rain-barrel-initiative/

In addition to rain barrels (or even as a complement to rain barrels), you can plant a rain garden near a water source (gutter, runoff area in your yard, etc.) in order to keep rainwater out of your sewer system.  Rain gardens are usually a shallow basin garden planted with native plants and grasses that like wet feet.  Divert your overflow or your hose into your rain garden or simply disconnect your downspout and let rainwater flow into a rain garden. 

http://www.raingardennetwork.com/build.htm

Bioswales are another form of stormwater management which can either function as a more narrow, long rain garden, or a more complex filtration system which slows the flow of water into sewer systems.  Like rain gardens, they are planted with native plants and grasses that can handle a lot of water, but do not need to be watered often when during dry spells.

http://www.upperdesplainesriver.org/bioswales.htm

Some people get creative with their rainwater use, including those who use rainwater to flush their toilets!  Jump on the bandwagon and begin using your rainwater for good.

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1 Comment

Filed under Business, Green on the GAP, Resources, stormwater

One response to “Rainwater 101

  1. atomizu

    Rainbarrels are great. I also love blue roofs and manipulating stormwater runoff coefficients. Swapping pavement with vegetation really helps reduce the amount of sheet flow in an urban environment.

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