Rain Gardens: Green Isn’t Just About Energy

by Randy Murray on October 12, 2010

When people talk about being green or using green technologies, they often focus on energy and recycling. But there are so many aspects of modern life that affect the environment and damage our surroundings. Many of these things are so simple to change that once we know about them it is easy to make positive changes to help the environment.

Over this past year I’ve participated in a project that fits this bill perfectly. Our neighborhood here in Westerville, Ohio, was selected to construct a series of rain gardens to test their effectiveness at reducing rainwater run off and improve water quality. And they work remarkably well.

Rainwater runoff is a problem? Yes, a big one. In a natural setting with grasses, trees, and uneven surfaces, rain mostly soaks into the ground with only portions directly reaching streams and rivers. But when you build a house and pave the ground, massive amounts of rain is immediately directed into these streams. And all of the nasty items on the roofs and streets are washed right into them. Our local streams and rivers end up becoming our drinking water, at some point.

The rain garden is a simple and attractive way to help reduce the amount of water that floods into our waterways. It’s a lowered bed that you direct your downspout into. The plants are selected to handle brief flooding. With some basic landscaping instruction virtually anyone can build one. It’s not complex or expensive.

I’ve watched mine in action. During a brief but intense rain shower this summer the water shot out of the downspout drain in my garden nearly a foot high and the garden completely flooded. But an hour later, the water had drained into the specially prepared soil. That was hundreds of gallons of water that was kept out of the stream.

Many of my neighbors have them, too. And we have five right of way rain gardens that capture water running down the street gutters. Combined, they capture and filter thousands of gallons of water during a rain shower or storm. When the rain is intense or occurs over a long period of time the gardens are designed to overflow into the standard system, but for most rain events, they can handle and filter the rainfall.

I urge you to look into it. It’s an attractive piece of landscaping and it can help you reduce your negative impact on your local environment. If your live where it rains, why wouldn’t you want one?

Here’ some additional information on rain gardens:

  • What is a rain garden?
  • Our neighborhood rain garden project.
  • A short news story where yours truly is briefly featured talking about his rain garden.
The Rain Gardens: Green Isn’t Just About Energy by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Mari October 13, 2010 at 11:29 am

Thanks for pointing out a simple and effective green strategy for homeowners to employ to counteract the impact of residential development on our water quality.


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