Unrealized Amenities

Did you know that when it rains, quietly some of the landscape around us is hard at work?

No, I am not talking about wooded/forested areas – although they do an extraordinary job with water absorption. I am talking about the parts of the built landscape that are engineered to collect and slow the flow of water, and in some cases even clean it.

You are probably thinking about the storm drain in a parking lot or a yard drain in your backyard. Yes, those are engineered, but they serve the purpose of getting runoff away from infrastructure as quickly as possible (away from the foundation of a building or home, away from a parking lot, away from the low spot in your yard).

Often these storm drains connect to the silent, diligent parts of the landscape I was referring to called stormwater control measures. As their name implies, they do exactly that – control the flow of water runoff from a site during a rain event.

You may not have even noticed these features – some of them like to hide within landscaping beds or under the pavement and some are disguised as the pretty pond or the low spot the grass.

Due to their silence, it is often these features that are overlooked or forgotten.

I think we need to advocate for them! After all they don’t have a voice. Well, unless they fail and then they become a much, much bigger issue - and a costly problem.

I cannot emphasize the importance of these practices enough. They are infrastructure – not always in the sense we think about it (buildings, roads, power lines); however, they are a feature of the built landscape that is designed to provide a service, in this case managing stormwater. They should be valued and coveted!

Those practices on the surface, such as bioretention and stormwater basins, can also be an aesthetic amenity. Why not enhance these features – provide them a little makeup – and bring them to center stage?

People pay lots of money for water features (a backyard fountain or pond, the lot along the lake, etc.) because it is considered the more desirable area of the landscape. Stormwater control measures are required – and have an important job to do – but they can also be that desirable landscape feature too. It is time that we start thinking about and designing stormwater management as an asset of the site with multiple functions that provide – stormwater management, outdoor recreation, education, wildlife enhancement, and aesthetics too.

A stormwater basin at a school can become the science land lab. A bioretention area in a parking lot can be the beautiful blooming flower bed for the building. The green roof can be the outdoor dining area for employees. Let’s get creative, maximize the benefits and develop alluring landscapes we all can enjoy!

Blog Author: Carla Regener, Natural Resources Program Manager

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