All About Stormwater
Why is it Bad?
If you’ve been hearing a lot about water quality and improving watersheds lately, it is not surprising. Howard County is making a strong push to protect and improve water quality in local streams and rivers, and rightfully so. Just this past July there was a record amount of Rain that fell over our beloved town of Ellicott City, MD. The historic district was destroyed by the flood waters and store owners are still working at getting back into their locations. This massive flooding was caused by a combination of a large volume of rain falling in a short amount of time and the impact of over development of the surrounding area, which funnels all the stormwater down the narrow Main Street and right into the Patapsco river.
Stormwater also acts as a transporter of nasty pollutants in and on the ground. Some of the major sources of pollutants in area streams are nutrients, sediment and toxins like oil, grease and trash from roads, chemicals applied to lawns, gardens and crops, roofs and sidewalks (known as impervious surface). The County is pursuing an integrated watershed improvement approach, which means it’s relying on the active involvement of the community, including nonprofits, citizen groups, businesses, and residents to develop strategies to improve the water.
At LGS, we run into quite a few yards with drainage problems. The most common problems we run into are muddy spots in lawn, water coming into the basement, sheet flow of water through the yard in a storm-‘A river runs through it’, perpetually soggy areas or standing water, erosion where high velocity water off of roof gutter, patio or driveway creates eroded areas and wash outs.
What’s Being Done?
At the Howard County Watershed Improvement Network (WIN) spring meeting earlier this month, officials talked about many of the positive initiatives underway locally to improve the County’s waterways. The WIN is a coalition of County watershed group leaders working to protect, improve, and promote the health of watersheds within the County.
Part of that effort involves controlling and treating stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces. Rain on parking lots and sidewalks runs off quickly into storm drains instead of soaking into the ground. Treatment projects involve upgrading stormwater collection ponds and drains, planting trees to help prevent erosion, or installing green infrastructures such as rain gardens and dry wells. All of these practices aim at slowing the flow of water off of properties and promote soaking of water on site.
Howard County’s goal is to treat some 2,000 acres of impervious surface over the next few years. While the County has been actively working on projects on public lands, the bigger challenge is getting commercial property owners and residents to implement stormwater controls through best management practices (BMPs). BMPs are rain gardens, dry river beds, dry wells, and conservation landscapes (gardens with all native plants), which are practices that have been approved by the County to help them meet their water quality goals.
What can you do?
Residents can slow the flow of runoff during storms by running gutters and driveway run off into a rain garden, conservation landscaping or dry riverbed. As an incentive, Howard County has a program called Cleanscapes that will reimburse residents for a portion of the installation costs of rain gardens, conservation landscaping, rain barrels, and other projects if they meet certain requirements.
Best Management Practices (BMPs), help correct some of the issues caused by these drainage and erosion problems. Their goal is to keep as much water on site as possible, allowing the water to infiltrate and recharge the groundwater. Newer construction law requires builders to run the water that hits these surfaces to a bioretension area (a large rain garden) or other practice which helps filter pollutants and sediment. Construction sites are required to put up little borders that keep the soil on the construction site when it rains. This protects all that soil from washing into local streams and silting them up.
This is the most supported practice in the Cleanscapes program. Residents can get a 50% reimbursement for the installation of a rain garden (up to $1200). For your typical larger than 1/4 acre lot a rain garden will cost around $2100. That includes the entire service from site assessment, locating the best area for the rain garden, custom designing the rain garden and installation of the rain garden which includes plants, river rock, well draining soil, mulch and anything else needed to install the rain garden.
Check out our Pinterest Board for rain garden inspiration!
Rain barrels are a great way to save water collected from your roof, reducing the volume of water that runs off your property. The best application of a rain barrel is when it is located near a garden or containers that it can be used for when water is needed. We’ve also set up rain barrels to empty into soaker hoses that slowly release water into your garden beds. The County often gives rain barrels away at special events. We can give you a free estimate for rain barrel installation if you think its right for your property. We’ll help you access the best location and likely uses and help you troubleshoot any concerns.
At Lauren’s, we’ve been installing rain gardens, dry river beds, dry wells and conservation landscapes for years, using locally grown plants that are native to the region. The gardens not only control rain runoff, they also attract birds and bees, and serve as a beautiful additions to yards. If you are nature lover, bird lover, like to attract wildlife to your yard or just like to be a conscious citizen doing your best then consider calling us for a free estimate to control stormwater runoff in your yard.
Here is a link to the County’s Cleanscapes Program that discusses the various ways you can get reimbursement for your eco friendly landscaping practices. Call or email us if you need help knowing what would work for you property!
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