The Issue: Stormwater
In an increasingly paved world, stormwater management is the name of the game for municipalities and businesses looking to reduce costs, improve water quality, and enhance performance of their existing infrastructure.
Stormwater is the rush of water that occurs during a rain event, especially during the initial stages. Imagine rain falling in two different scenes: a gigantic forest and a paved city. In a forest, streams and rivers rise, lower spots in the ground fill with puddles, and the earth gets saturated for a period of time as the water slowly percolates back down into the groundwater. In a city, gutters gush, basements flood, highways get slick, and drainage systems discharge water into rivers and bodies of water. This article highlights a key tool – green infrastructure – that helps paved cities behave more like spongy forests, thereby decreasing the negative impacts of stormwater.
Green Infrastructure and Its Impacts
Green infrastructure refers to many tools and products – soils, filters, plants, pervious surfaces, green roofs, bioswales, and retention ponds to name a few – that help typically paved environments absorb more water. Green infrastructure serves two bioretention purposes:
- It slows down the first flush of runoff by increasing the amount of surface area where water can get absorbed.
- It increases the quality of runoff by intercepting pollutants closer to the source.
When embarking on a stormwater management project, a few key factors can influence the outcome. Entire courses and forums are devoted to this topic. A quick overview includes:
- Size: Evaluate the catchment area. A gutter that gets disconnected from the downspouts will have different needs than a parking lot.
- Medium: Identify the ideal characteristics of the planting medium. If it’s a green roof, you’ll need a lightweight, engineered blend. For example, if it’s a backyard bioswale, you’ll likely want a mixture of soil with a high organic content (compost) and strong filtration properties (sand).
- Plants: What conditions will the plants need to endure? Conditions will vary depending on the depth of the depression and typical weather patterns.
- Flow: Identify the slope and where the flow will need to be managed or controlled.
At Harvest, specifically Harvest RGI, we have qualified experts that help guide and shape soil selection. Commercial contractors depend on us to meet their engineered soil specifications for erosion and stormwater control. Residential customers also get involved: several homeowners may work together in a community effort to manage rainwater on their properties, benefiting from the economies of scale associated with purchasing a 15-20-cubic yard truckload of soil together.