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Rainscaping is increasingly becoming popular as a landscaping technique. And, with good reason. It offers homeowners a great solution to combat water pollution, and we’ll tell you exactly how.
Storms and heavy torrential rains do more ecological damage than you think. All that rainwater rushes down dirty roofs and rain gutters, passes dirty parking lots, city streets, sidewalks, and driveways, mixes with pesticides and fertilizers in fields, and finally makes its way into natural waterways, creeks, and streams. Such water carries all sorts of pathogens and pollutants.
Rainscaping is all about managing this rainwater and channelizing it so that it follows a particular path, without being a danger to you and your loved ones.
What is rainscaping?
Rainscaping is a technique that makes use of sustainable landscape designs and management practices to prevent polluted runoff from reaching water bodies. The goal is to direct the stormwater in such a way that it either gets absorbed by plants and soils or gets collected for reuse. It’s a great way to improve your community’s water quality.
Why should you consider rainscaping techniques?
This type of landscape enhancement helps reduce stormwater runoff from properties. Today, because of impervious surfaces such as rooftops and driveways, there’s a dearth of healthy soils and natural plant communities to absorb the rainwater. As a result, the runoff leads to water pollution, health issues, and property damage.
With good rainscaping plans, you can landscape your yard, address specific water issues such as soil erosion, and positively impact your neighbors as well as local streams.
Specific benefits of rainscaping
- Reduces water problems and helps to keep the runoff away from your house’s foundation which can otherwise lead to water damage issues.
- Well-designed rain gardens can prevent stormwater from entering your sewer system. Such a situation can lead to basement backups and sewer overflows.
- Lowers your irrigation needs and maintenance as a rain garden essentially ends up watering itself — often even surviving droughts.
- Rainscaping can help beautify your property by providing interesting planting ideas. It can be a creative alternative to traditional lawn landscapes.
- Supports biodiversity by creating an ideal habitat for birds, butterflies, pollinators, and other wildlife.
- Reduces the risk of mosquito breeding as rainwater soaks into the ground within a day or two. This also eliminates any chance of yard ponding or water pooling.
- Improves the water quality for everyone in your neighborhood and is a great solution to stormwater pollution.
How can you do it?
There are several rainscaping techniques — right from simple solutions such as redirecting downspouts toward garden beds to progressive ideas such as creating rain gardens and bioswales and investing in rainwater harvesting water features.
Some simple rainscaping practices include:
- Setting up rain barrels and cisterns to collect rainwater and irrigate landscapes. Generally speaking, commercial rain barrels can hold 55 gallons of water while cisterns (super-sized water tanks) can hold 1,000 to 10,000 gallons. This amount is more than sufficient to fill your birdbaths, water features, and to irrigate plants.
- Installing French drains to guide water along a path toward the desired discharge point such as a dry well or rain garden. A French drain has a perforated pipe that’s placed in a gravel-lined trench. The pipe is covered with a grate or filter fabric and then with soil.
- Creating grass swales to provide runoff control. These earthen channels are covered with dense grass or low-growing vegetation.
- Digging a dry well. In a dry well drainage system, the well receives water from one or more entry channels, and then that water is discharged through a number of small exit openings. Gradually, it dissipates into the ground.
- Planting the right native plants, trees, and shrubs, and maintaining them
- Disconnecting downspouts from storm sewers and redirecting them into lawns
- Reducing impervious surfaces such as traditional concrete or asphalt and encouraging the use of brick pavers, pervious concrete, or gravel
- Planting buffer strips and filter strips around any water bodies to reduce the influx of pollutants and sediment. You can make use of vegetative filter strips, placed between a permeable pavement (at least one foot from the edge) and a pond, wetland, or any other surface water collection system.
Factors to determine the right rainscaping technique
Keep in mind that certain rainscaping practices that work well in one area may not do so in another. Before choosing a technique, it’s important that you identify the problem areas in your property. For example, if you have underground utilities in your yard, they could interfere with any digging you have in mind.
Also, you need to decide if you want your rainscaping to divert the runoff or collect it to reuse it. Once you know the answer to that, you can combine different rainscaping methods to achieve your goal.
When deciding which rainscaping technique(s) to implement, you need to factor in a few things:
- The volume and timing of rainfall in your area
- Your local climate
- The topography of your landscape
- Soil porosity
- The size of your lot and roof
To sum up, rainscaping benefits include improved water quality, soil infiltration, and a chance to build a wildlife habitat. Most importantly, it reduces your community’s carbon footprint. It’s a great way to manage water runoff by capturing, diverting, and storing it for later use. With so many benefits, rainscaping is a conscientious way ahead — toward a better tomorrow!