Climate change and urban sprawl are putting increasing demands on municipal budgets and infrastructure when it comes to stormwater management. Under natural conditions, stormwater is intercepted by vegetation and absorbed into the ground, when an area is urbanized, this vegetation disappears.
Climate change is causing an increase in the number of violent storms we are experiencing as well as significant changes to the annual rainfall figures. In some areas these are increasing while elsewhere decreasing and creating drought situations. With the increase in property values in business areas and urban centers, areas of residential homes are being bought up and bulldozed. When high-rise condos and office buildings are constructed in their place all the green space is lost. When a significant rainfall event is experienced, more and more the urban infrastructure in unable to cope with the runoff, leading to frequent and costly flooding of roads and buildings.
One way to mitigate this flooding if through the installation of water gardens. In many municipalities this is now becoming a prerequisite to obtaining a building permit. The property development is limited to the amount of runoff it is allowed and must design the layout of the grounds to accommodate storm water.
Fort Worth, Texas has created the above elaborate water garden to help deal with their storm water runoff and eliminate much of the downtown area flooding. It has also created a tourist attraction and a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city to be enjoyed by all.
In urban environments, even a much smaller water feature can greatly impact the amount of storm runoff entering the city storm sewer system. By giving the water an opportunity to percolate through to the local aquifer, you can decrease flooding and increase groundwater recharge while at the same time reduce the contamination that is entering the local rivers and streams as storm runoff. Planting trees and gardens along walkways can also significantly decrease storm runoff by soaking up some of the water.
If designing and installing a water feature seems a little out of reach even something as simple as planting a grassy area or garden on the site instead of covering the entire surface in concrete or asphalt can have a significant impact of water absorption. Permeable pavers are being developed to allow water to reach the groundwater table through the pavement and some buildings are even incorporating storm water mitigation features on their roofs.
As severe weather and flooding events are increasing, storm water management is becoming a much higher priority all around the globe and something that is getting politician’s and lawmaker’s attention.