Rain, Rain, Go Away and into my Rain Garden Today

Jillian McCarthy, Member of Chapter 50 has some great ideas and DIY home solutions for soaking up the rain – that’s right, not the sun, but the rain.

It turns out that storm water (rain water) causes 90% of water pollution. The actual rain water is clean, however, once the water hits man-made materials (like rooftops or roadways), it has no place to soak down into the soil. Instead, it runs out into driveways, streets, parking lots, and eventually water supplies, carrying with it all the man-made materials and their associated toxins, such as street salt from our winter roads, pavement materials, and garbage.

“The hard surfaces can’t filter or soak in the water, and they change the way the water naturally flows,” said Jillian.

Jillian McCarthy stops digging for a moment to chat about the program she manages.

Jillian McCarthy stops digging for a moment to chat about the program she manages.

“This often means there’s more water in our streams and other waterways than they can naturally handle.” Water pollution and erosion are two byproducts of the situation.

Last year, Jillian and her co-workers piloted a new program to address this issue – A NH version of the national EPA program, Soak up the Rain. “Large scale development like malls and shopping centers get permits for stormwater run-off,” said Jillian. “Larger towns and municipalities may be regulated by the EPA, but individual homes are not and they contribute to the problem, as well.  So we began this voluntary program for individuals who would like to do something about the issue on a personal level.” The pilot was successful and the program is continuing.

We caught up with Jillian, her co-workers and supervisor, as well as some volunteers earlier this week at the Massabesic Audubon Center in Auburn, NH.  The group was there to install a “rain garden.”

Perennials need to be chosen with care. They need to be hardy and tolerate wet soil well.

Perennials need to be chosen with care. They need to be hardy and tolerate wet soil well.

A rain garden is a space that is shallow and planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses. The rainwater is diverted into the rain garden where it has the opportunity to soak into the earth and plant roots.  At this particular site, Rob Livingston, also of Chapter 50, was installing gutter

Rob Livingston attaches gutters to redirect stormwater.

Rob Livingston attaches gutters to redirect stormwater.

materials that would guide the stormwater from the roof and into the rain garden. The others were digging and smoothing the planting area.

“We were careful to select plants that would not interfere with the habitat,” said Jillian. “This area is naturally home to birds and bees, so we selected plants that will appeal to both.” The plants must also be selected to thrive in wet places.

Dawn Genes, the Massabesic Center Director read about the program earlier this year and thought the Center would make a wonderful place for the hundreds of visitors to observe and learn about ways to address the stormwater run-off issue. “I pounced on this opportunity,” she said. “I contacted Eric Williams, the section manager at NH DES and he saw it as a good educational tool, as well. This has all happened since May.,” The area for the garden is outside the observation room window where visitors will be able to see it year round.

The Soak up the Rain staff provides expertise, and helps with planning and installing solutions for municipalities and individuals who are interested in addressing the problem. There is also quite a bit of great information at their website soaknh.org.

In addition to the pollution and health consequences of stormwater run-off, it can lead to flooded basements and property erosion, as well.

If you would like to learn more, contact Jillian McCarthy at jillian.mccarthy@des.nh.gov or at 271-8475.

Did you like this? Share it:

Comments are closed.