As the spring season approaches, so do the heavy rains that come with it. While many of us are familiar with the puddles and flooding on our roads and walkways, not everyone considers the impact of rainwater once it leaves their property. The increase in impervious surfaces and piping to direct stormwater quickly to streams can have a detrimental effect on our waterways.
Erosion caused by stormwater has become more widespread as development increases. What were once consistent flows have become flashier, with efficient sewers dumping water into streams from roads and yards. This contributes to the erosion of banks, scouring of the bottom, and blowouts of submerged vegetation and woody wetlands.
The consequences of these events can be devastating for wildlife. Eggs and young animals can be injured or killed, and habitat can be degraded to empty muddy channels. Fewer beneficial insects, fish, amphibians, and plants can survive in eroded streams, and water quality tends to decrease. All these streams contribute to the health of larger downstream bodies of water like the Chesapeake Bay, and some are sources of drinking water, which we should be trying to keep as clean as possible.
Fortunately, there are many things private landowners can do to slow down erosion and improve water quality. Rain gardens, rain barrels, swales, green roofs, native ground cover, pavement removal, or permeable pavers are all improvements that can be made to individual properties. These methods encourage water to slow down and spend more time moving through the property, giving it more time to filter through soil, soak into plants, and settle pollutants.
Many counties, townships, and states have programs to assist with paying for these improvements, usually in the form of a rebate or tax credit. Even if you don’t have property, you can bring it up at an HOA meeting, advocate for it at work, or suggest public improvements at local government meetings. Identifying problem areas in your neighborhood and bringing them up to the folks responsible for that land can also help.
Improving stream quality will help all aquatic wildlife, providing recreation, hunting, and fishing opportunities for years to come. Let’s work together to preserve our waterways for future generations.
For more information:
- Maryland Department of the Environment – Facts About Rain Gardens, Rainwater Harvesting, and Dry Wells
- Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay – Native Plants for Rain Gardens
- Maryland Department of Agriculture – Erosion Tips