Soak it in!
There are lots of ways we can slow down and reduce the amount of stormwater that directly enters the creek, allowing it instead to evaporate or infiltrate through the soil and travel to the creek as groundwater. The best way to do this is often to manage stormwater right where it falls! We can help you take many of these actions at your home, business, farm, church, or school.
A rain garden is a garden designed to capture and treat stormwater. It usually manages runoff from a parking lot or rooftop, but can be used for most any type of runoff. Rain gardens can range from small, easy-to-install home gardens to heavily-engineered projects designed to capture large amounts of runoff.
The basic idea is simple: create a depression in the ground, and plant a 'wetland' garden in it. Soils can be amended with sand, compost, and mulch to increase water's infiltration rate into the soil. But the real benefit comes from the plants, especially if you use native perennials.
Native plants are plants that occur naturally in our area and were here before European settlement. They're adapted to local soils and climate, need no watering after they are established, and don't need to be fertilized. They also provide essential food and habitat for native birds and insects. These plants take up water, nutrients, and some pollutants for their own use. Their roots penetrate deep into the soil (sometimes 10-15 feet!), breaking it up and helping stormwater infiltrate more quickly. For more information, visit raingardens.org.
Rain barrels can be attached to your home's gutter downspout, where they capture water so it can be used later to water your lawn or garden. Barrels usually have a spigot and hose attached to them, which can be used as if it were a normal garden hose.
Vegetated buffers are an important practice for farmers or anyone who owns land on the creek or any of its tributaries. Keeping trees, shrubs, grasses, and/or wildflowers on the banks of the creek and its tributaries (no matter how small the tributaries!) has a number of benefits to water quality:
- Erosion control: Plant roots form extensive networks in the soil, helping hold it in place and keeping banks from eroding and washing into the creek.
- Shade: Trees and shrubs provide shade to the creek and its tributaries. This cools the water, improving habitat
- Filter: Plants intercept runoff, helping filter out nutrients and trapping sediment. In an agricultural setting, they help filter runoff that can can contain animal manure and E. coli bacteria, preventing health risks downstream.
Trees are an excellent solution to stormwater issues, no matter where they are in the watershed. Leaves and branches provide lots of surface area to intercept rainwater, slow-releasing it as it droplets are shed to the ground. Trees take up several gallons of water per day, as well as excess nutrients that would otherwise pollute the watershed.
There are several simple, smaller steps we can all take to improve water quality in Plaster Creek, the Grand River, and Lake Michigan. They can be as simple as moving pet waste to a trash can, reducing the amount of lawn fertilizer you use, or washing your car on lawn or gravel instead of the driveway. Find out more ways to be drain friendly.