Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stormwater Tuesdays: Rainwater as Education

by Marley Bice, MCRP '12

Back to describing why stormwater is so fascinating and important. This week I want to gush about how bringing stormwater to the surface (or just keeping it there where it fell) and creating attractive features with the water can help educate us (and the next generation) about the natural water cycle and how manage the urban water cycle. Let’s face it our urban development pattern has caused a physical (and therefore mental) disconnection from our natural water cycle. Do you remember when you first learned about the water cycle? Were you surprised (especially if you lived in the city) to find out that that rain that fell from the sky is supposed to replenish your drinking water and oceans?
The fact of the matter is we have the same amount of water on Earth than we always have but less and less of it is clean enough to support life on our planet. We have diverted and polluted the water we were given so immensely that the only answer is to allow the natural processes of phytoremediation and photosynthesis to try to reduce and reverse the damage that has commenced.
Well, wouldn’t it be great if our kids could grow up in efficiently developed towns and cities and still develop a true understanding and connection to water. Creating green stormwater infrastructure that also serves as an educational tool to illustrate the water cycle at our scale can help achieve this. Check out these examples: 
The Dane County Office of Lakes and Watersheds has developed a great curriculum for 6th graders that is best when implemented with the school’s implementation of a stormwater management system such as rainwater harvesting or a rain garden. Let the kids learn about the problem and then implement part of the solution. http://www.danewaters.com/pdf/stormWaterCurriculum.pdf

When feasible, it is great to combine rainwater harvesting with a creative viaduct feature to maximize the time that the water cycle is visible to passers-by like this great rain garden and cistern at Syme Hall at North Carolina State University. http://shiftncsu.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/from-gene-bressler-open-thank-you-letter-to-syme-raingarden-partcipants/

It could be as easy as including interpretive signage and ensuring public access to the site. But Arlington, Virginia went above and beyond with their Children’s Rain Garden at Powhatan Springs Park. http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/ParksRecreation/scripts/planning/powhatan/ParksRecreationScripts

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