Protecting the Watershed

Protecting the Watershed Rain Gardens Shine

It sustains life, nurtures souls and refreshes spirits. Water is the essence of life. It has given rise to cities, shaped history and fueled growth of people, cultures and countries. It is timeless and ageless—the apotheosis of ancient and modern cultures.

Whether your druthers are to see it, feel it, hear it or taste it—you’ve experienced its impact. You’ve seen it satiate the parched, revive the wilted and soothe the troubled.

It softens macaroni, fills swimming pools and creates hydroelectric power. It is awesome, dynamic and transformative. When it comes to water, we risk waxing poetic. It’s our deepest passion and our strongest commitment. We choose to protect, preserve and deeply admire.

Catching a glimpse of the small metal signs on community storm drains is a sobering reminder: stormwater runoff from our picket fence neighborhoods impacts the health of ecosystems hundreds of miles away. Protecting the watershed—the area of land that drains surface water into a lake, pond, bay or ocean—is serious business. It means limiting activities and habits that leave a chemical footprint and creating solutions that minimize negative impact.

Storm runoff becomes more than simply water—remember the snowball effect. What starts as two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule becomes laced with every chemical in its way—pathogens included—and carries them on its long and complex journey.

So how can we preserve and protect our watershed? It is doable and worthwhile. And impact will transcend generations.

As the installation of manicured lawns and non-absorbent surfaces (such as pavement) has increased, runoff simply has nowhere to go but out.

Unless...it finds a rain garden.

Rain gardens are holes or depressions that contain a mix of soil, sand and compost that play host to native plants. Grasses, plants, flowers and vegetation for rain gardens are carefully chosen and positioned closely to a runoff source, working overtime to capture and filter surface water. Deep-rooted plants absorb nutrients and keep soil in place. Berms serve as a barrier during heavy rains. Rain gardens prevent runoff from making its way to stormwater drains and can also replenish aquifers.

By catching and filtering the runoff, they also prevent the transfer of pollutants from roof shingles, soil, automobile fluids and pet waste to faraway ecosystems.

And their form is as beautiful as their function. Rocky borders juxtaposed with sweeping blooms create a stunning visual experience, and a confluence of colors and textures elevates its richness. The mix of native vegetation attracts birds, bees and butterflies. A modern or traditional fountain will define the style and serve as centerpiece, and also help to circulate the water. Powered by a pump, its flowing water will provide a source of drinking water for birds.

It will take more than lab coats, wet slides and microscopes to move the needle. Protecting watersheds demands collective action. Understanding our environmental impact is the first step, enacting (beautiful) solutions, such as rain gardens, next. Thank you for protecting our watershed, one rain garden at a time.