What is stormwater runoff? “Stormwater runoff occurs when precipitation from rain or snowmelt flows over the ground. Impervious surfaces like driveways, sidewalks, and streets prevent stormwater runoff from naturally soaking into the ground. Why is stormwater runoff a problem? Stormwater can pick up debris, chemicals, dirt, and other pollutants and flow into a storm sewer system or directly to a lake, stream, river, wetland, or coastal water. Anything that enters a storm sewer system is discharged untreated into the waterbodies we use for swimming, fishing, and providing drinking water.” Source: EPA on stormwater
Our manmade system of curbs, gutters, and storm drains quickly carries stormwater runoff directly to local streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay—without any natural filtering process. However, there are various techniques we can employ to lessen the detrimental impact of stormwater runoff, such as installing rain gardens, rain barrels, green roofs, and pervious pavers.
Capture polluted stormwater runoff before it enters our rivers and Bay by installing a rain garden. Different from a common flower garden, a rain garden is created by making depressions in the landscape to promote stormwater infiltration and reduce stormwater runoff. The water flows into this depression where it will infiltrate into the ground, as nature had intended. The native plants, trees, and shrubs planted in a rain garden will help absorb some of the stormwater, including excess nutrients that can aid in the decline of water quality once in our waterways. Although they hold water initially, rain gardens should drain with just a few short days of rainfall.
According to the Chesapeake Ecology Center, “Rain gardens are attractive landscaping features that function like a natural moist garden, moist meadow, or light forest ecosystem. They can look as informal or as formal as you like. Rain gardens provide flood control, groundwater recharge, and water-cooling benefits, while the plants, soils, and associated microorganisms remove many types of pollutants—such as excess nutrients, pesticides, oils, metals, and other contaminants—from stormwater runoff. Stormwater pouring off hot roofs, pavement, and other impervious surfaces is temporarily captured, cooled, and allowed to percolate into the ground. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which would otherwise contribute to algae blooms and other problems in the Bay, are instead put to beneficial use by being taken up by the plants in the garden. Some studies show that about 50 percent of such pollution comes from individuals and homeowners, through yard care, yard waste, and chemical pollution from household activities.
Native plant rain gardens also become wildlife oases with colors, fragrances, and the sights and sounds of songbirds and butterflies regularly visiting. Additionally, rain gardens increase groundwater supplies, significant because many people get their water from underground aquifers. The replenishment of groundwater—which is particularly important in times of drought—depends on the absorption of rainwater into the ground. By creating rain gardens and keeping most of the rain that falls on your site contained on site—the way nature intended—you can help improve water quality in local streams and rivers and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.”(Source: Chesapeake Ecology Center.)
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is offering $25 coupons off the purchase of trees with a retail value of $50 or more at participating nurseries around the state. The coupons can be downloaded from their “Marylanders Plant Trees” website. Please go out, purchase a tree, and plant it in your yard for the health of the South River and the Chesapeake Bay.