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Better Planning Shifts Stormwater From Nuisance To Resource

Better Planning Shifts Stormwater From Nuisance To Resource

vegas floods urban storm water

Las Vegas Flash Floods

With the ever growing population and increase in the size and scale of urban centers, a virtual ocean of concrete has been laid down. Concrete is a wonderful material and useful in so many ways but planners and engineers have been building our cities with the idea that water is nuisance that must be swept off all of those concrete surfaces as fast as possible. Little further thought has been given to how all of that run off could be used.

A Range Of Challenging Problems
lake lanier 2008 drought
Lake Lanier after southeast drought

A growing population and a reduction in reliable water sources is going to change all of that whether we like it or not. The examples of a our fresh water sources becoming less stable are plenty. In Florida Lake Okeechobee's water levels have been at record lows at times becoming unnavigable. Atlanta GA has had major problems in the past few years with their main water source, Lake Lanier dropping to the point where local lake residents are in litigation over water rights. It's a similar story in Austin Texas, and scientist s warn a major aquifer that is used to irrigate crops from the upper plains down to the Gulf Of Mexico is more than half way emptied. Combine that with the glaciers disappearing in the rocky mountains, another important source of fresh water for the American West is in jeopardy.

All of these factors will continue to get more extreme and unpredictable in the coming years and for this reason, everyone from city planners to local landscape architects and residential builders will have to change their view of sweeping storm water away as fast as possible to how can we also store this increasingly valuable resource.

In addition to water scarcity, all of that concrete which is so valuable in creating modern life is also good at catching both airborne pollutants and spills or pollutants from vehicles. When a large rainfall occurs, particularly if it's directly after a long dry period, like we often have in Florida, all of those pollutants get quickly swept into storm drains and eventually into our waterways and the Gulf Of Mexico. These pollutants will contain a variety of substances including pesticides, petroleum, harmful paints, trace elements of heavy metals that accumulate from fossil fuels and  excess fertilizers.

All of those will combine to cause a variety of problems for our area such as possibly increasing the frequency and severity of Red Tide blooms, the build up of pesticides and heavy metals in marine animals that are further up the food chain, and overall turn the once beautiful blue waters around Sarasota into the dull green bay we see today.

Effect Solutions Are Available

With everything from large scale improvements in city utilities and  infrastructure down to individual residents  adding water managed hardscape design, rain gardens, installing cisterns, drain swales, new efficient irrigation systems and other water management to their homes there are plenty of ways to turn things around. While it's likely the drought that has been gripping much of the southwest, mid-west and southeast to one degree or another will relent, these kinds of weather events will become more common and more intense. With the changing climate the realities on the ground will begin to change the way we think of storm water from unpredictable nuisance to an available resource.

Grant Beatt is co-owner of Grants Gardens, Sarasota Landscaper and sustainable irrigation specialist. Grants Gardens servers the entire Sarasota - Bradenton area including, Bradenton, Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key, Sarasota, Siesta Key and Casey Key.