Reduce Runoff


[Narrator] Sustainable societies are those
that embrace institutions infrastructure and lifestyles that meet current needs without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable techniques
are gaining popularity throughout the United States with individuals and communities. In
2008 the U.S. Botanic Garden hosted the One Planet Ours Exhibit to show examples of functioning
green techniques that can be used in homes and businesses that will make our society
more sustainable. In addition many of these techniques can also help improve the health
of our nations waters. [Ray Mims] Sustainability is important to American cities because were
really using our resources at a rate far exceeding the ability for the planet to sustain us.
Were really just using too much of the planet in order to live sustainably and comfortably
for the next generation. One of the key elements of the exhibition is to show that emerging
green techniques really can help us manage stormwater runoff in a much more sustainable
manner. Some of the types of exhibits we have are rain gardens green roofs showcasing rain
barrels and all types of techniques to collect rain water and reuse it. Weve been very lucky
to have over 40 partners from across the country to come together to talk to the public about
things they can do to be more sustainable. One of the great things that has come out
of this exhibition is a memorandum of understanding with the EPA Office of Water where were really
trying to concentrate on green techniques and bringing those to the forefront of the
publics attention and showing then what they can do at home. Our goal is really to mimic
the natural water systems. Weve done away with that natural water cycle through our
construction and development. What were really trying to do is take the water slow it down
spread it out and soak it in. [Narrator] Green techniques like rain gardens allow water to
soak into the ground and be absorbed by plants instead of going into the storm sewer and
having our downstream water resources polluted. [John Snitzer] Rain gardens are very easy
tools for soaking up and absorbing rain water onsite. [Narrator] A rain garden is a small
depression not terribly deep. Rain gardens catch runoff from rooftop downspouts driveways
and other hard surfaces. They retain the water rather than just letting it run offsite. [John
Snitzer] By spreading that water out slowing it down and holding it for just a short while
were letting it soak back in and replicating the natural processes. And they can be any
size they dont have to be huge. The first step in a rain garden is to check your soil
drainage. Ideally the perfect situation is to have about an inch of drainage per hour.
We then will make a shallow depression well take the soils that are in that depression
and we will use them, we will mix compost and pine bark in those just organic materials
so that weve got well prepared rich humus soil for the plants. [Narrator] Mixing in
compost and other organic materials is critical to provide food for the plants and to improve
the soil texture so that the water can soak in better. [John Snitzer] We chose the plants
in this garden with a number of objectives in mind. We wanted flowers we wanted textures
we wanted color we wanted plants that are going to grow easily without a lot of care.
Were also picking plants for specific environments. The question of irrigation is a big issue
now so in this garden we selected plants that were going to be happy with the amount of
water that we gave them. Now if you combine that technique with other techniques like
using rain barrels so that youre capturing water so that you can use it later in your
garden you can dramatically reduce the amount of water thats coming off of your property
and do an awful lot to benefit the environment. [Narrator] Not only do rain gardens help absorb
stormwater but they provide habitat for wildlife and improve the aesthetic value of homes and
businesses. More than one green technique can be used to create a more effective multilayered
approach. Green roofs can be used with rain gardens to protect water quality by capturing
and slowing down rooftop runoff. Green roofs also help cool our planet. [Bob Cameron] The
benefits of a green roof are numerous the reduction of a buildings energy needs especially
for air conditioning increase in habitats so reducing a footprint of a building also
reduction of pollutants from the stormwater. But some of the things are benefits that often
are overlooked. And one of those is the improvement of longevity of a roof. So if you take a day
like today here we are with the ambient temperature about 70 degrees partly cloudy and the temperature
on the average roof is over 160 degrees. And as a result those materials that are used
the traditional asphalt shingle that materials expanding during the day. And when it cools
down at night that temperature is reducing and so you have this expansion contraction
combined with the UV of the sun and thats why a 30 year shingle never lasts 30 years.
By putting in a green roof that actually prolongs the life. One of the main benefits to having
a green roof is its potential to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff. In fact many
of our studies will show that during the summer in the northeast we can trap 100 of the stormwater
runoff. Those benefits can continue throughout a calendar year and so we find that overall
over 55 of the stormwater runoff can be trapped by a green roof. And what that does in addition
to decreasing the amount of water thats going off into our streams and causing flashfloods
it also is trapping many of the pollutants that come with stormwater runoff. By going
through a green roof such as this the plants and more importantly the natural bacteria
that are within the media will actually use that as a food resource. One of the questions
we often receive is what type of buildings are best suited for green roofs. Really its
wide open from residential to commercial to industrial applications. [Narrator] Rain barrels
are an easy do it yourself green technique that collects rooftop runoff into a barrel.
The tap and hose at the bottom of the barrel allow easy access to the water so that it
can be used later to water your plants. [Ray Mims] Well here you see at the EPA Greenscapes
Exhibit theyve got their rain barrel attached to the downspout and the gutter. This collects
the water during a rainstorm stores it or slows it down so that it can be used later
to water the garden in a dry spell. Typically you want to keep it accessible and you may
just want to plant around it as in this case and allow the foliage of the plants to hide
it. Theyre pretty widely available. You can look on the Internet to find a local source.
A lot of municipalities have them available for residents you could find them at do it
yourself stores hardware stores and most garden centers carry them. [Narrator] Rain barrels
are a very easy way for homeowners to save money on water bills conserve water and help
protect the environment. Cisterns are very similar to rain barrels but on a much larger
scale. A cistern is a large storage tank designed to capture stormwater runoff from a building
so that it can be later used for irrigation or other purposes. This cistern at the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agencys Headquarters building in Washington D.C. can hold up to
6000 gallons. In this case the collected water is used for landscape watering. Installing
green techniques at your home or business can help make our planet more sustainable
by reducing the impacts associated with stormwater runoff. You can make a difference. [John Snitzer]
These techniques that weve been talking about enable anyone to do something to make their
community more sustainable to protect the water resources to address some of the larger
pollution issues that we have to protect our waterways. These really are a beautiful solution
to water pollution. [Narrator] To learn more about how you can incorporate these green
techniques visit the Web sites of both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the
U.S. Botanic Garden. 3

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