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March 9, 2016

Stormwater Challenges & Green Infrastructure Solutions

Raining again? This winter’s total rainfall accumulation was the highest on record (and still counting), which is saying something since we live in the wet PNW. Sure, we can point to El Nino as being the culprit, but the real impact of all this rain is dealing with the associated challenge of stormwater and polluted runoff and it’s impacts to the health of Puget Sound. 

Puget Sound is a great place to live and the recreational opportunities that we enjoy here are a significant contributor to our quality of life.

Puget Sound is a great place to live and the recreational opportunities that we enjoy here are a significant contributor to our quality of life.

What is stormwater?

From Beachapedia: Stormwater is a term used to describe water that originates during precipitation events. It may also be used to apply to water that originates with snowmelt or runoff water from overwatering that enters the stormwater system. Stormwater that does not soak into the ground becomes surface runoff, which either flows directly into surface waterways or is channeled into storm sewers, which eventually discharge to surface waters and the ocean.

Stormwater is of concern for two main issues: one related to the volume and timing of runoff water (flood control and water supplies) and the other related to potential contaminants that the water is carrying, i.e. water pollution.

This is a big concern for those who enjoy swimming, SUP’ing, playing on the beach, or eating shellfish from the Sound. Large stormwater events often lead to elevated levels of bacteria, beach advisories, and shellfish closures.

Evening paddle, Bellingham Bay.

Evening paddle, Bellingham Bay.

Understanding the Challenge, and Focusing on Solutions: As the #1 challenge affecting the health of Puget Sound, addressing stormwater and polluted runoff is going to take action from all of us- whether it’s in your own yard, or collectively within our communities. Our partners at The Nature Conservancy Washington recently put together an amazingly detailed page full of infographics that focus specifically on our region and the challenges that we face, along with a call to action for solutions to the problem, check it out here. They also pulled together this great short video.

At Surfrider, we’ve been addressing this challenge through our Ocean Friendly Gardens Program for many years now. Spring is in the air, and there isn’t a better time than now to consider installing an ocean friendly garden in your yard to help soak up the runoff with vegetation before it enters our storm drains. There are a number of really good programs out there for homeowners that offer financial assistance for installing these gardens, if you live in the Seattle area, check out the RainWise program.

Green streets projects like this one in East Ballard are designed to capture stormwater runoff from the streets thru curb cuts, and allow the water to soak into the native vegetation that has been planted.

Green streets projects like this one in East Ballard are designed to capture stormwater runoff from the streets thru curb cuts, and allow the water to soak into the native vegetation that has been planted.

 

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