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.”

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: Green Roofs, 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

Are You Missing Out on the Benefits of Green Stormwater Infrastructure?

Posted by Ecogardens


Green stormwater infrastructure is a growing need in our world, as cities bloom and rural areas feel their effects. Are you missing out on its benefits?

Stormwater is a huge problem.

When we say huge, we don’t just mean “large” or “sizeable” or any other half-measure word that politicians use.

We mean huge.

It’s a problem to which we must start paying attention, but we have to do it in the right ways … and that means going green.

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Topics: Stormwater Management

The Definition Of Stormwater And What It Means For You

Posted by Ecogardens


Stormwater is liquid that results from rain, snow and other forms of precipitation. In an urban environment, we typically use the term “stormwater” in the context of surface water that aggregates on impermeable surfaces. 


It just sounds kind of scary, right?

I mean, you’ve heard the term. You know it’s a problem. You understand that addressing it is of critical importance.

But unless you work in landscaping or an environmental niche, you may not understand what to do about it. As a homeowner, building manager, investor or institution, you probably feel unsure what your responsibility to the environment should take – and that’s okay.

Let’s talk about the definition of stormwater and what it means for you today.

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Topics: Stormwater Management

How to Develop a Rural Stormwater Management Plan

Posted by Ecogardens


Rural stormwater management is a critical – and often under-addressed – need in our world today. Anywhere humans live, we need a smart plan for purifying water and funneling it where it needs to go. 

We should definitely celebrate the fact that stormwater management has become a better-known concept in cities across America.

* pause for champagne and party crackers *

However, the focus on cities has had one unintended side effect: In the effort to respond to urban needs, many people have forgotten the importance of rural stormwater management.

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Topics: Stormwater Management

What You Need to Know About Combined Sewer Overflows

Posted by Ecogardens


Combined sewer overflow events plague many cities that rely on old infrastructure to manage both sanitation and surface runoff. It’s time we made a change.

If you’re like most, avoiding the contents of a toilet is pretty high on your list.

It might disgust you, therefore, to discover that the sewers in many large cities regularly back up and flow into the streets.

While this fact is certainly ripe for some bathroom humor, it’s actually a very serious problem. When heavy rains lead to an abundance of stormwater, some sewers can’t keep up. Current city planning incorporates stormwater management practices to prevent this from happening, but our older urban spaces have yet to hop on board.

it’s time we change that.

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Topics: Stormwater Management