Rain Gardens Keep Cities Dry

Soils Support Urban Life—rain gardens help cities

Green based technologies help cities manage storm water. The last few decades have brought a shift from traditional treatment to more sustainable systems such as rain gardens, which capture water in soils and plants.

The problem is that most urbanized areas collect and move wastewater to Water Reclamation Plants (WRPs) using a connected collection system, according to According to Dr. Lakhwinder Hundal. In many areas, this means collecting storm water and municipal waste, treating both at the same time. In large cities, like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York over 90% of the land is in impervious surfaces that cannot absorb water. What this means is that heavy rain and snow can overtax existing systems, leading to raw sewage being dumped into rivers and oceans.

Green infrastructure can impact these events, both by slowing water runoff, and by removing nutrients (from fertilizers), road salt, and bacteria, that can negatively affect aquatic life and public health. Green infrastructure captures these pollutants, especially those that might run off at the beginning of a storm, called “first flush.” Green-based technologies collect, treat, and filter any surface runoff to recharge groundwater, helping the storm water to avoid the collections system. Green roofs, rain gardens, and other systems collect water and keep it out of storm water. Compared to traditional drainage systems, cities believe green infrastructure technologies are sustainable and will cost less for urban areas.

The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is coordinating a series of activities throughout 2015 International Year of Soil (IYS) to educate the public about the importance of soil. February’s theme is “Soils Support Urban Life.” In SSSA’s February Soils Matter blog post, staff from Chicago’s Metropolitan Water Reclamation District explain how rain gardens work. As part of their celebration of IYS, SSSA is developing a series of twelve 2-minute educational videos. They are working in conjunction with Jim Toomey, who has worked with the UN in the past on a video series. He also authors the environmental cartoon, Sherman’s Lagoon, along with February’s Soils Support Urban Life video. More information about green infrastructure and rain gardens can be seen at Soils.org.

About the Soil Science Society of America

The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is a progressive international scientific society that fosters the transfer of knowledge and practices to sustain global soils. Based in Madison, WI, and founded in 1936, SSSA is the professional home for 6,000+ members and 1,000+certified professionals dedicated to advancing the field of soil science. The Society provides information about soils in relation to crop production, environmental quality, ecosystem sustainability, bioremediation, waste management, recycling, and wise land use.Follow SSSA on Facebook and Twitter at SSSA_Soils. SSSA also has a blog, Soils Matter, additional soils information for teachers at and for students through 12th grade.