What is the problem?
Over time, people have changed the landscape of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Hard coverings such as paved roads and parking lots, roofs and other impervious surfaces have replaced what were once open fields and forests. According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, between 1990 and 2000 the population in the Chesapeake Bay watershed increased eight percent, yet the amount of impervious surface increased 41 percent.
Before extensive development, the landscape absorbed much of the rainfall. This natural process filters out pollutants, recharges groundwater, and reduces the likelihood of erosion and flooding. In urban and suburban settings, rainfall washes over impervious surfaces creating runoff. ______________________________________________
Parking areas, streets and rooftops are impervious surfaces (loosely defined as areas where water cannot penetrate the ground). Even a lush lawn growing on compacted soil can be considered an impervious surface.
Traditional drainage systems concentrate runoff from these surfaces and remove it as quickly as possible by a system of gutters, curbs, pipes, sewers, and channels. The result is large amounts of fast-moving and sometimes highly polluted water discharging into local rivers, causing erosion, flooding, and unstable stream channels. Pollutants can include litter, pet waste, vehicle fluids, and fertilizers and pesticides applied to lawns.
Studies show that significant impairment of waterways often occurs when just 10% of the land in the watershed is covered with parking lots and rooftops. However, if these areas exceed 25% of the land, severe ecosystem and water quality impairment occurs.
Source: Chesapeake Bay Program
Beautiful Solutions to Water Pollution!
What solution should I use?
Actually, there are many solutions. Rainscaping practices integrate a variety of methods to reduce the impact of polluted runoff. Most of the practices described are approaches you can implement in your own front, side and backyard. Other practices may require professional help. RainScaping incorporates general conservation landscaping practices, including using native plants, removing invasive plants,conserving water, eliminating or reducing chemical fertilizers and pesticides to reduce pollution and conserve resources, shaping the ground for better infiltration and to control erosion, and enhancing aesthetics and wildlife habitat.
Rainscaping protects our waterways by infiltrating and filtering stormwater runoff. Rainscaping practices range from simple measures that include redirecting downspouts to planting beds, installing rain gardens and rain barrels, planting native trees and shrubs, and replacing hard surfaces with permeable surfaces, to more sophisticated measures such as larger bioretention and green roofs installations. By using these techniques and planting native plants that don't require fertilizers and pesticides, we will improve water quality in our streams, creeks, rivers, and the Bay, while creating habitats full of beauty and life where local birds and butterflies will thrive!
* Click here for a comprehensive checklist for rain garden installation in Anne Arundel County.
* Try out the new online GIS mapping application that Anne Arundel County’s Watershed Ecosystem Restoration Services (WERS) has developed and made available for public use. What was only once imagined is now possible, that is, when planning your rainscaping project, you can graphically map a site and it’s features; and draw and measure pinpointed runoff areas and planned rain garden or other rainscaping installations to prevent stormwater runoff.
* You can also graphically mark your completed restoration projects and add descriptions and photos on the Restoration Activity Completion Report. This is a great tool for educators, students, and citizens who want to learn more and make a difference in their watershed. Download the Users Guide for WERS Watershed Mapping Application below.
* Anne Arundel County property owners who install rain barrels, rain gardens or other stormwater controls are eligible for a property-tax credit equal to 10 percent of the cost of the improvement, for five years. The deduction is capped at $10,000 over the five years. Homeowners will receive a 10 percent credit for each of the five years, for 50 percent total. Download forms below.