Rain Gardens and Storm Water
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. While that old axiom holds true for many things, it is especially applicable to storm water management. The loss of life and the staggering property damage caused by flooding in America is not something that we can blame entirely on Mother Nature. We now understand it has been our own shortsightedness at the root of floods, both the massive, infrequent ones and the nagging and more common floods.
We have built upon floodplains, removed the vegetation buffers next to our waterways and covered over the land above our creeks and rivers. The water cannot soak naturally into the soil and runs off faster, with greater force. The still-shortsighted among us see little wrong with the continuation of such folly. Most, however, now recognize that storm water management and floodplain development restrictions make sense. The money you spend and the changes you make upstream are much more cost effective than multi-million dollar flood control projects we build downstream. And like other environmental solutions, a host of smaller efforts can collectively make a big difference.
Modest sized infiltration swales and ponds next to parking lots, roadways, businesses and residential developments may seem insignificant when taken by themselves. Hundreds of smaller rain gardens in a local watershed seem even less likely to be effective. Yet they can be surprisingly effective when combined together. It is with that in mind that the Blair County Conservation District continues their educational outreach on the topic. Conservation District organizer Beth Futrick thinks it is a timely topic and hopes the good work done by local governments will continue and be enhanced. "Our local government staffs are sincerely interested in working together and exploring new ways to control storm water," Futrick explained.
Traditional large-scale storm water management, though usually effective, has not always been particularly attractive. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, a non-profit that has worked hard to preserve the scenic treasures of Western Pennsylvania, will present ideas and approaches that will be effective and more aesthetically pleasing. In the past, much storm water control was done with "gray infrastructure," focusing on pipes and channels and structures made of concrete. (Johnstown's flood control walls are a typical example.) While gray infrastructure may be the only solution in some settings because of space constraints or other geographic factors, "green infrastructure" is much closer to the way nature slows urban runoff. Though all storm water infrastructure has to be maintained, green infrastructure tends to be less expensive to maintain when compared to piping systems, concrete structures and massive retention ponds.
Futrick is excited to have the opportunity to share some success stories and dispel the notion that sound storm water management is expensive, difficult or ugly. Futrick believes that "installing green infrastructure, such as a rain garden, is a community-friendly and effective" way to handle rainwater before it becomes flood water.
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