Rain Gardens Work!
Whenever I return to the Puget Sound region from a trip away, I am again reminded what a beautiful natural wonder we live in. This recognition for me just hammers home our need to protect this resource. Let’s take stormwater pollution, for example. We know that polluted runoff loads toxic chemicals into our waterways or causes flashy flows that impact salmon habitat. But there are easy fixes that you can easily and beautifully do in our own yards to protect creeks, rivers and Puget Sound.
Rain gardens are a green infrastructure tool that works! They are affordable, easy to install and effective at addressing pollutants and reducing excessive flows. Where soils are appropriate, you can direct your roof or driveway runoff to a specially designed and vegetated depression in your yard which will slowly soak the rain into the ground. Metals and other pollutants are then filtered in the soil through natural processes. Rain gardens often feature native and drought tolerant plants and are easy to maintain.
Rain gardens are beautiful additions to your property or your neighborhood. A new study out of California has shown that green features in homes add value to the resale price. In addition to actually installing a rain garden, you can get many of the same benefits to help with stormwater impacts by simply leaving existing native vegetation on your property, or creating areas of native plants.
There are many examples of residents, communities, and local governments benefiting from using these tools all around the Sound and Straits. Not only can green infrastructure projects reduce stormwater impacts, they can also help with a major problem – combined sewer overflows. In King County, swales, similar to rain gardens, are planned to soak up the rain and filter pollutants in the Barton Basin in West Seattle. Not only is this method effective at managing runoff – it also means less disruption to neighborhood streets and significantly reduced public expense since storage tanks are not needed. Added benefits of swales are the beautiful gardens and their influence in calming traffic thereby creating walking friendly areas for the neighborhood.
People For Puget Sound strongly supports the use of green infrastructure to reduce combined sewer overflows and stormwater pollution rather than relying on the traditional constructed engineered massive projects. These green efforts can be at your home – in the form of a rain garden, a cistern or a section of retained native vegetation or they can be bigger city or county projects along roadways.