Helping Nature Conserve Water: Green Infrastructure

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Newswise — Soils are a major contributor to clean water and keeping water in its place. But, as cities developed on former forest and prairie land, humans engineered ways to “manage” the water flow. However, many cities realize that working with nature, and its soil, is healthier and less expensive for the environment. Here are some tips from the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) about “what can the average citizen do?

Step 1: Conserve the soil
Like any sustainable strategy, the most important starting point is conservation. Conserving our green spaces and caring for the soil that’s already in place is central to creating healthy ground for improved stormwater management. This includes reducing soil compaction and erosion, and promoting soil health. Strategies for improving soil include:
•Amending soils with compost
•Letting leaves and grass clippings decompose in place to restore soil organic matter
•Using compost socks and berms to prevent erosion in areas under construction
•Planting trees and native plants in areas where soil is bare

Step 2: Install a rain garden or other green infrastructure feature
Residential rain gardens not only reduce flooding in your neighborhood but can increase property values and are a charming landscape feature. Other green infrastructure tools for reducing runoff include use of rain barrels or cisterns, disconnecting downspouts, and installing green roofs. Many municipalities have developed incentive programs to share the cost of construction.

Step 3: Create a community
The impact of these strategies will be enhanced if they are implemented on a community level. Clustering rain gardens in a designated area such as a neighborhood block allows pooling of resources, the potential for shared maintenance, and a greater collective impact on runoff.

Tips for inspiring community stormwater projects:

Communicate! Talk to your neighbors or hold a community event to educate the neighborhood about the issues surrounding stormwater runoff.

Collaborate! Reach out to landscapers, nurseries, and other vendors who might be willing to give you bulk discounts for group projects. Local non-profits or government agencies may also be helpful.

Educate! Post signage in yards or parking strips where projects have been built to bring attention to the economic and environmental values of green infrastructure.
Share! Organize a tour of your rain garden project to inspire other communities to create their own projects.

For more information on using your soil more wisely, visit soils.org/discover-soils/soils-in-the-city. Topics under Soils in the City include Community Gardens, Green Infrastructure, Green Roofs, and Soil Contaminants. SSSA also has an informational blog about soils, called Soils Matter, at http://soilsmatter.wordpress.com/
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