Rain Gardens: A Beautiful Solution to Run-Off and Pollution
Droughts aside, Northeast Georgia is blessed with an abundance of water. Our area averages nearly 50 inches of rain each year. Of that total, 35 inches evaporate, 6 inches infiltrate the Earth to become groundwater and almost 9 inches become run-off.
The Pace of Run-Off is Key
In the Chicopee Woods, most rainfall is slowed by the tall trees before it strikes the earth. The leaf cover and ground plants trap the water and then allow it to slowly percolate into the soil or into nearby creeks. Erosion is kept to a minimum and soil and water resources are well protected by this system.
However, more developed areas are susceptible to run-off problems. With the growth in population and the development that accompanies it, impermeable surfaces like asphalt and concrete have replaced the forest floor. Roofs, roads, parking lots and large commercial developments prevent water from entering the ground and creeks slowly. Instead, water is forced into storm sewers that power it into the nearest creek or stream. Erosion and water contamination follow, forcing municipal water departments to struggle in controlling and cleaning this resource we have always taken for granted.
Our homes and neighborhoods also contribute to the problem. Water flows off our roofs, down our gutters and downspouts and into storm sewers. Grass lawns lose up to 30-percent of the water that falls on it. The run-off transports fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals into our creeks and lakes. We pay for the clean-up with higher water bills and litigation from angry downstream consumers of the same water.
Rain Gardens: A Solution We Can Each Embrace
Rain gardens trap run-off and allow this water to slowly enter the soil, in effect minimizing or completely eliminating erosion and other run-off problems. Native flowers and shrubs are key components of rain gardens.
Some Great Choices for Rain Gardens
These native plants have adapted to thrive in both wet and dry conditions that come with periods of rain or drought:
- Blueberry Vaccinium elliottii
- Horsetail Equietum hymale
- Piedmont Azalea Rhododendron canescens
- Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis
- Cinnamon Fern Osmunda cinnamomea
- Beebalm Monarda didyma