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Thinking small can make a big difference with stormwater runoff

2/20/2015 | Real Estate Blog

The Delaware Riverkeeper and Friends to Preserve Radnor co-hosted a meeting recently that featured a hydrologist from a private environmental consulting firm. The two organizations are committed to protecting the river and maintaining thriving communities in the watershed..

The meeting was about stormwater runoff. As we discussed in our last two posts, runoff is the primary target in the fight to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The bay has suffered algae blooms that have closed areas to fishing and swimming. An overabundance of nutrients in stormwater runoff from residential and commercial developments, farms and just about everything else renders the bay incapable of supporting marine life — yes, that means fewer crab cakes, and no one wants that.

These community activists are fighting to keep our river and Delaware Bay from the same problems. The message from the hydrologist was that it is time to rethink the way we — Radnor, Philadelphia, and every other city or township along the river — deal with runoff.

In the past, we put our efforts into managing runoff at the “source” — at the farms treated with fertilizers, at the streets treated with various chemicals — and into moving the runoff away, as quickly as possible, from the environmentally sensitive areas.

It appears we are losing that battle. Even a small paved area that prevents rainwater from soaking into the ground can trigger changes in the quality of the river’s and the bay’s water. So, he said, it’s time to find ways to put runoff to better use.

His idea is to create small “catchment” areas that will create what he calls a “treatment train” for stormwater. We may have seen them in action, in fact, without realizing what we were looking at.

The catchment area could be a shallow pond that would collect the rain water. The pond would be surrounded by a marshy area that, in turn, would be surrounded by a drier area. Each zone would feature native plants that, instead of allowing the runoff to enter the watershed, would absorb the water. Put a fountain in it, and you have a water feature.

For developers, he said, the goal is to include runoff management from step one. Dot the landscape with rain gardens. Provide rain barrels to residents in housing projects. Encourage small, localized steps.

We promised to talk about Philly’s rules regarding runoff, and we will. In another post.

Source: Mainline Media News, “Hydrologist offers modern tips on taming stormwater runoff in Radnor – Main Line Suburban Life,” Linda Steinlstein, Feb. 8, 2015