Rain Gardens Reduce Storm Water Runoff, Ease Strain on Sewer Systems

RAIN GARDENS: They will ease strain on the municipal sewer system and keep pollutants out of lakes, streams
rain garden
Rain gardens can be an attractive and effective way to reduce storm-water runoff from your roof, driveway and other surfaces in your yard.

By installing a rain garden, you can ease the strain on municipal sewer systems and help prevent harmful pollution such as road salt, heavy metals and oils from entering lakes and streams.

In the natural hydrologic cycle, storm water slowly infiltrates into the soil. There, it is naturally filtered and cleansed of some pollutants, is used by plants and replenishes the water table. In contrast, storm water runoff in urbanized areas usually flows quickly from hard surfaces, such as roofs and driveways, carrying pollutants into sewers that eventually empty into lakes and rivers. The increased volume and frequency of high flows can overload sewers and the pollutants can harm water quality and habitat for aquatic species.

Rain gardens are planted or stone-covered beds specifically designed to receive storm water and allow it to be absorbed into the soil. Typically, rain gardens contain perennials, shrubs, grasses or ferns that can tolerate both wet and dry conditions and are adapted to your climate and your specific soil and sunlight conditions. You might also choose to cover the rain garden with loose, hard materials, such as pea gravel or river stone.

Although relatively easy and inexpensive to design and build, there are a few things you need to consider. The two most critical technical considerations are: the water must seep into the soil and not stand in the bed for more than two days; and the rain garden should not create drainage problems on your property or your neighbour’s property.

The best place to put a rain garden is at a low point on your property or somewhere along an existing drainage path. A relatively flat area with slopes less than 12% is ideal. Be sure to place it at least four metres (13 feet) away from your house foundation, septic beds or neighbouring homes to ensure you direct storm water away from vulnerable areas.

Rain gardens do not work well on clay soil because drainage in clay is slow. If your soil has a higher clay percentage, you will need to add sand, fine gravel and/or organic matter to improve permeability.

Rain gardens are often designed to capture roof rainwater runoff via a downspout extension, a swale or an underground pipe. Your downspout extension should be inserted right into the rain garden, but, to prevent erosion, place a small bed of pea gravel, decorative pebbles or a concrete splash pad under the extension. If possible, also have the downspout discharge onto a lawn area that drains into the rain garden.

Having a reasonably accurate estimate of the amount of rain water that will flow into it from your roof and lawn, and how quickly the water will be absorbed by the soil, will help you determine the best size of rain garden for your property.

Source: London Free Press (By Mark Salerno)

Also see Save Water & the Environment with a Rain Garden. Another way to reduce stormwater runoff is by harvesting rainwater and collecting the rain water in rain barrels or rainwater tanks.  The rainwater stored in water tanks on the property can be used for household purposes and garden irrigation.  Simple rainwater systems can be installed where the water tanks are placed beneath gutters and then gravity is employed to irrigate the garden/lawn at the lower end of the property.  Water pumps can also be installed at the water tanks so that the rain water can be pumped to wherever it may be required. 

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