August is the last official month of the summer, and the time to celebrate National Water Quality Month.
The 110-mile Russian River and all its tributaries move through many active communities and working lands which can affect water quality. Some of the main categories of water quality impacts can include chemicals, bacteria, sediment, and temperature. Rain water that lands on our rooftops, driveways and streets ultimately reach our tributary creeks, river and ocean, carrying with it remnants of the long journey. These remnants, many invisible, can include:
• Gasoline and oil from small spills or leaking automobiles
• Bacteria and pathogens from animal and human waste
• Sediment from loose soil
• Metals from pesticides, fungicides, cars and building materials
The good news is that there are strategies to help keep our local waters clean! One strategy is to offset the hard surfaces (such as roofs, gutters and roads) that increase runoff by installing low impact development (LID) features. This strategy is being deployed throughout the Russian River watershed, and is required for many new development projects.
What is a LID? LID is a planning and design strategy used to reduce potentially harmful impacts on water associated with increased stormwater runoff from construction. LID uses an innovative technique to imitate how water would flow prior to the constructed development. This approach is based on infiltrating, filtering, storing and sometimes evaporating stormwater runoff before it enters our rivers and creeks. When stormwater enters a LID, it begins to infiltrate or seep through rocks and vegetation. As it infiltrates the ground, it is filtered through layers of rocks, soil and bacteria which reduce many pollutants in the stormwater. The excess clean water either infiltrates into the ground or is carried out through our storm drains to the creeks.
These LID design strategies come in all shapes and sizes, whether it be living rooftops or vegetated swales. Look around as you take a stroll around downtown or new buildings and you may start to notice all the LID in your area. Some LID benefits include:
• Reducing the flow of water that can cause erosion or flooding
• Recharging our groundwater basin
• Decreasing the impacts of new developments on local hydrology
• Preventing trash and debris from flowing down the storm drains
• Treating pollutants and protecting water quality
While our cities, counties, architects and contractors work to decrease stormwater pollution, there is still much that residents can do.
Check out our website rrwatershed.org/project/low-impact-development for more information on low impact development and ways you can help keep stormwater runoff clean.
A homeowner’s and landowner’s Guide to Beneficial Stormwater Management Slow it. Spread it. Sink it. Store it. is available here.
This article was authored by Christina Leung, of RRWA. RRWA (rrwatershed.org) is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.