Making the Most of Rainwater: Commercial Applications

The Issue: Stormwater

Bioretention_DDOT_DDOEIn 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

Bioretention_Montgomery_CountyGreen 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:

  1. It slows down the first flush of runoff by increasing the amount of surface area where water can get absorbed.
  2. It increases the quality of runoff by intercepting pollutants closer to the source.

Key Components

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.

custom_designed_blendsAt 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.

Making the Most of Rainwater: Residential Applications

rainwaterDepending on where you live, the chances are your home features a significant amount of rainfall throughout the year. Since there are many areas where rainwater can be used in lieu of the tap, wouldn’t it be great to harness this resource for yourself? Fortunately, harnessing rainwater is an increasingly popular trend, as it utilizes a free, renewable material right on your doorstep!

There are many benefits to harvesting rainwater, including:

  • A greener, eco-friendly lifestyle
  • Cheaper bills thanks to reduced water reliance
  • Peace of mind through knowing what’s in your water

Many of these benefits apply to typical homes and, even if you live in an apartment, there’s still always something that can be done. As long as you have a roof, garden or balcony to collect water, you have access to a fantastic, natural resource.

In The Garden

The most obvious use for rainwater is to water plants – after all, that’s what they use normally – but there’s no need to stop there. Did you know you can also use rainwater in the creation of mulch and compost? The best way to apply mulch (such as dry leaves and organic matter) is to apply water first, then the mulch, before adding another layer of water. This traps the water in with the top soil, keeping it hydrated throughout dry periods. Save rainwater during the rainy spells and you won’t need to worry about your plants so much!

You can also create a tiny rain garden outside. If you live in an apartment, there’s nothing stopping you from doing a little gardening either. Many plants fair much better with rain water, as it’s free of some elements or properties (depending on where you live) you may find in your taps. Combine the rainwater with natural sunlight for the true garden experience.

Water Features

Similarly, you don’t need clean water for most of your garden features. Between the pump and the water bill, fountains and ponds can often be quite expensive, so cut out one of the biggest expenses by just rainwater. For static water features such as ponds, you only need a certain amount anyway (and nature will always provide a refill every now and then). For fountains, simply connect your rainwater collection system to your fountain and avoid adding to your water bill altogether.

Household Uses

Aside from drinking and washing, how clean does your water need to be? There are a variety of instances where rainwater is more than good enough. For example, why not try using this resource to clean your car? You would be surprised how much water it takes to wash even the smallest vehicle, so being able to reduce the water bills once more is always welcome! Additionally, try it on the windows the next time you’re doing some spring cleaning. As long as the water is clear, it should work wonders on glass.

Going Organic

organic gardenAdditionally, have you ever wanted to take your greener living to include your food? For many people, an organic garden is a worthwhile investment and, alongside other aspects, having clean water is an important part of this. Tap water often has preservatives and other agents in it, whereas rainwater is exactly what plants love. Of course, you can combine this with the mulching and compost mentioned earlier to truly develop a resourceful, green garden.

Improve Your Property Value

As we’ve just mentioned, living with nature, rather than against it, is becoming more and more popular, especially with new home buyers. For many, moving into an already established greener lifestyle can readily add value to the property in question. If you’re willing to invest in some rainwater harvesting bins or barrels, you can make your home more desirable. Not only will new buyers dream about the bill savings, you’ll be making a cut in your own bills too. This investment also adds even more value on to your home for the right buyers.

These are just some of the ways you can harness the power of rain water. Whether it’s improving your lifestyle or just cutting down the bills, it doesn’t make sense to ignore such obvious benefits. Furthermore, you’ll be helping the environment out too!

About the Author

Tim Sparke is the CEO at 4pumps and for several years, he has been an active advocate of organic farming and sustainability. He also has a passion for writing and he writes the blog at 4pumps.

A Rain Garden for Driveway Runoff

Are you ready to take storm water management on your property to the next level, but not quite sure what to tackle? Here’s a simple idea for how to divert water flowing on your property – in this case your driveway – into a rain garden to slowly absorb the water into the groundwater table (as opposed to into the municipal treatment or storm water system).

A small rain garden can capture driveway runoff in elegant fashion.

The best way to position your mini rain garden properly is to go outside the next time it rains and see where your water is flowing. We found this article super helpful in describing how to identify the best spot for a rain garden. Good job on taking steps to manage stormwater on your property!