Can we save the "water" in stormwater?
Stormwater can be a great resource. It is wasteful to water our landscapes with our diminishing drinking water resources, when we can collect stormwater using rain barrels or cisterns and use it instead. These are the types of practices promoted by Low Impact Development (LID). LID is an approach to land development that uses land planning, design, and construction techniques to conserve and protect natural resources - including water.
In traditionally designed neighborhoods, rainwater that hits paved surfaces such as roofs, driveways, and roads, is quickly directed to a series of underground pipes, called the storm sewer system. Stormwater contains pollutants and is often directly discharged into our creeks with no treatment. Newer developments have stormwater basins that can reduce the amount of pollutants before any discharges occur.
LID developments recognize the importance of putting all of this rainwater to good use rather than just storing it in a basin or polluting our creeks with untreated water. At the development planning stage, efforts are made to treat the water and allow it to infiltrate close to where it hits the ground rather than sending it off to a centralized basin. This means that LID treatment techniques are scattered throughout a site so that water can infiltrate in many locations, mimicking the way natural systems behave. For example, water that hits our paved driveways and roads can be stored and treated nearby in rain gardens (small landscaped depressions) or swales. Roof water can be collected in rain barrels or cisterns to irrigate the landscape. Runoff from roads is easily treated by swales filled with vegetation and organic soils that work effectively to remove pollutants. In our commercial developments, parking lot tree islands would become landscaped depressions that collect water from the large paved area, and so on.
While the environmental benefits of incorporating these types of techniques are clear - better water quality, reuse of water resources, preservation of trees and natural areas - quite often there are also measurable economic benefits, as many of these techniques have low installation costs and make more efficient use of the land. As professionals and citizens continue to become more knowledgeable about the effectiveness and low cost alternatives of LID, Alachua County residents should expect to see more of these practices used throughout new developments in the county. To learn more about LID and see what kind of techniques you can use in and around your home, visit our Resources page.
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