A Day Without Water

Posted by Ecogardens


This year, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine a Day Without Something. Remember when you thought you’d have to go without toilet paper? Or hand sanitizer? And the run on potatoes and pasta was something to see!

We don’t mean to poke fun. Back in the spring, when it felt like suddenly we might not have access to whatever modern day or basic supply we might want was shocking, and a little scary.

Which makes this year’s Imagine a Day Without Water a little close to home for most of us, and incredibly relevant as we think about what we want our world to look like in the coming years.

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Topics: Stormwater Management, Stewardship

What Should You Know About Stormwater Detention?

Posted by Ecogardens


Stormwater detention is an important goal in any city, but we’re not necessarily going about it the right way. Let’s take a look at what it is and how we can do it better.

When you look outside at the rain, what do you see?

If your answer is something along the lines of “a wet walk, muddy dog paws and Seasonal Affective Disorder,” then no one can blame you. But those aren’t the worst downsides of precipitation.

No, that honor goes to stormwater runoff.

While you can find numerous definitions of stormwater and runoff, the best way to think of it is precipitation that hits the ground. In other words, when rain lands on a surface, it becomes stormwater – and it needs to go somewhere.

Urban areas have typically dealt with this by routing it into sewer systems, where it leads to combined sewer overflows. Or it runs along streets and across parking lots until it finds a stream, lake or other waterway. It picks up toxins along the way, spreading them to plants and animals. Obviously that’s not ideal.

If we want to understand what stormwater management is and how best to approach it, we must first grasp stormwater detention.

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Topics: Stormwater Management

What Is the Detroit Stormwater Hub and What Can It Teach Us?

Posted by Ecogardens


Detroit Stormwater Hub is paving the way toward a new kind of discussion, one that promises to be a lot more productive.

One of the biggest problems with stormwater management to date is that individuals, corporate entities, NGOs and municipal institutions have a hard time talking to one another about the issue.

This has several drawbacks, including making it harder to craft a case for green infrastructure – a problem, since many cities still lean toward existing grey stormwater management systems – and reducing the overall effectiveness of individual efforts.

Not everyone took this reality lying down. The City of Detroit wanted to do something different, so they crafted a Stormwater Hub.

Luckily for us, it’s something we can all learn from. Ready to take a page from the rejuvenated auto capital? Keep reading.

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Topics: Stormwater Management

How to Choose the Best Stormwater Solutions

Posted by Ecogardens


Stormwater solutions come in many forms, but they share the goal of keeping more stormwater on site and purifying the runoff that does eventually leave.


Raise your hand if you watched FernGully: The Last Rainforest as a child. With your children also counts. So does alone, as an adult, with a glass of wine in hand, just for fun.

Point being, if you watched it, you’re familiar with a nasty little character named Hexxus, the personification of pollution. (Side note: Should children really be watching this?)

Now change his name to Stormwater, and you have a pretty accurate representation of how we feel about this urban annoyance.

Scratch annoying, actually. Stormwater runoff and the pollution it carries into streams and waterways are more than a nuisance; stormwater is downright evil. Eroding streambanks, spreading disease and carrying metropolitan toxins far afield, it is at the top of our must-manage priority list.

We’re taking it seriously. Here are a few stormwater solutions we’re looking into today.

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Topics: Stormwater Management

What Is Smart Irrigation and Who's Getting It Right?

Posted by Ecogardens


Water is too valuable for the cavalier treatment it gets today, especially in the outdoor arena. Here’s what we need to do better … and the smart people who are getting it right.

For centuries, millennia even, we’ve been tending gardens, watering lawns and growing crops. The human condition is, and has been since prehistoric times, one of settlement and husbandry of the land. While the exact methods vary according to era and culture, some of the basic principles and resources are the same across them all – and we’ve become very, very good at using one resource in particular:

Water, yo.

Today, of course, we know that water is far from expendable. Christian Bale’s The Big Short character Michael Burry famously predicted the 2008 housing bubble burst, and thereafter invested his money primarily in water. That’s how precious it’s going to become in this century.

Of course, a lot of people aren’t taking this too seriously. We love our hot showers and our green lawns. According to the EPA, “landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly one-third of all residential water use, totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day.” Moreover, “In dry climates such as the Southwest, a household’s outdoor water use can be as high as 60 percent.”

This is especially devastating news given the fact that “as much as 50 percent of water used for irrigation is wasted due to evaporation, wind, or runoff caused by inefficient irrigation methods and systems.” Plus, extra untenanted water running through our streets only adds to the stormwater problem.

Time to irrigate smarter. Today, we're here to tell you all about the companies that are doing it right. But first ... what exactly is smart irrigation?

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Topics: Stormwater Management, Green Infrastructure

How to Use Green Roofs to Slash Stormwater

Posted by Ecogardens


Green roofs are one of our primary tools in the fight against urban, suburban and rural stormwater runoff.

Pop quiz: What’s the worst thing about rain?

No, it’s not forgetting your poncho and getting soaked on the way to that meeting. Nor is it all the standing water in the Starbucks parking lot, though that’s a bit closer.

The worst thing about rain is the damage stormwater does to our cities and the environment, overflowing sewers and carrying all that raw, toxic muck into our drinking water and wild habitats. We’re talking poo, people. It ain’t pretty.

Like we said, it’s the worst.

One of the best ways to improve our stormwater management efforts is to build more green roofs and ensure that we’re stewarding them properly, so that their benefits continue over the long haul.

Building and maintaining green roofs to maximum effect, however, requires understanding how they work together. Keep reading to find out.

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Topics: Stormwater Management

What Is Stormwater Runoff and How Can We Manage It?

Posted by Ecogardens


Stormwater runoff is a problem plaguing cities, but many people don’t know what to do about it. We say understanding is the first step, so let’s start there.

When you wake up to a stormy morning and look out your window, you likely think nothing of it. Rain happens all the time, after all. It’s just what nature does. The coffee, on the other hand, will not make itself.

And that’s about when the average person stops thinking about rain … if they even get that far.

The trouble is, not thinking about it doesn’t make it go away. Cities still deal with hundreds of billions of gallons of precipitation every year from both rain events and snowmelt.

Seriously, hundreds of billions. And where does it go? Right into our streets, sewers and waterways. It’s time to not only answer the question of what is stormwater runoff, exactly, but also to lay plans to manage it more effectively.

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Topics: Stormwater Management

How to Choose the Best Stormwater Management System

Posted by Ecogardens


Stormwater management is a pressing need in today’s built environments, but it’s important to choose the right one for maximum effect. Here’s how to get started.

We’re just going to come right out and say it: stormwater sucks.

In an unmanaged urban context, at least, it can prove very damaging indeed.

“Increasing development and urbanization of our lands has led to changes in the natural environment that include increases in flooding, degradation of water quality, erosion, and sedimentation of our waterways,” says the University of Virginia’s Facilities Management Department.

Why is this happening? Because our heavily paved-over cities have cut off many of the avenues from sky to water table. Time was, when it rained or snowed, that water found its way to the closest stream or river pretty quickly, or else filtered through soil and other organic substances and joined the aquifer (the saturated area beneath the water table).

Now, that’s no longer possible in urban areas – or at least far more difficult.

Instead, water sheets off city surfaces – brick, stone, cement, asphalt – and eventually into waterways, but only after eroding the environment, spreading disease from sewers, and picking up massive chemicals loads from dirty city surfaces.

Good times.

Kidding. Terrible times. That’s where a good stormwater management system comes in.

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Topics: Stormwater Management

How Do Blue Roofs Help the Environment?

Posted by Ecogardens


Though they’re not the best choice for all rooftops, blue roofs do offer major environmental opportunity of which we should avail ourselves. 

Question: What wears a dirty blue cape, visits Chicago more than a hundred times per year, and doesn’t give a fig about combined sewer overflows?

If you said Captain Stormwater, you are correct. The prize, well – how about being really bummed out? You know, because of the disease and toxins that pour into our streets, the urban runoff that poisons wildlife, or the overloaded city infrastructure that just can’t keep up with the amount of water sheeting off impermeable surfaces every day?

Told you, it’s a bummer.

That’s not to say we can’t do anything about it. Green roofs help solve many of these problems, transforming barren concrete and cement rooftops into vibrant oases that absorb and filter stormwater, lessening its load considerably.

Green roofs represent a significant upfront cost outlay, though, and some people aren’t willing to wait for the ROI that accrues over time. In that case, a blue roof might just do the trick. Let’s tackle what that is, why it’s beneficial, whether it’s the best solution for your rooftop, and what we can expect from blue roofs in future.

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Topics: Stormwater Management

How to Use Stormwater Management Best Practices

Posted by Ecogardens


Stormwater management is a critical need in our cities and rural areas today, but to make our methods truly effective, we need to understand best practices.

To you, a sudden rainstorm is a nuisance. Your husband has the car today, so you’re walking to the L. You forgot your umbrella. Your presentation is getting wet.


Yet the billions of gallons that rain and snow down on cities like Chicago every year are far more than a personal inconvenience. They take a major toll, overrunning our sewers, sending pollution and disease into waterways, and ruining both metropolitan and rural areas.

The problem is, we tend to think of “saving the environment” as pertaining to the wilds, or at least to wetlands and parks – both inside and outside the city.

In truth, the urban environment is important as well. It’s where humans live (duh), and if we don’t take careful steps to make cities healthy, we’re hurting not only the world, but ourselves.

So how does stormwater come into the picture? Today, we’ll examine exactly what stormwater is and what we can do to manage it more effectively using long-term solutions rather than temporary measures.

In other words, using stormwater management best practices.

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Topics: Stormwater Management