Planning and Planting for Drought and Flood

photo 2 (1)With California suffering a historic drought, it may seem like an odd time to plan for the harmful runoff that rain can cause. But this week’s forecasted storm should be a reminder of the impact of storm water discharges on water quality. As businesses and homeowners update their landscaping to become drought tolerant, now is a good time to plan ahead to manage runoff.

There are many simple methods of planting in a way that significantly reduces water consumption, while also filtering storm water. To address water conservation, consider grey water systems, rainwater harvesting, and replacing any grass lawns with drought tolerant plants. For more details on landscaping designs, check out Surfrider Foundation’s tips on Ocean Friendly Gardens.

When the rain does return, runoff from gardens will again be one of the main contributors to water pollution. When I visited Portland, Oregon last weekend I was inspired by plantings and swales throughout the city designed to filter pollutants out of storm water before it discharges to surface waters. For example, one building, pictured above, directs runoff from its’ roof to a water sculpture that feeds into a landscaped area that filters pollutants before they reach the street. I saw a similar design in several areas, all with the use of native plants without pesticides.

While we continue to address storm water from industrial facilities like scrap yards through litigation, these are some small steps you can take to improve water quality and reduce water consumption on an individual level.

– Maggie Hall, Law Fellow

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