Storm water runoff carries pollutants in the form of sediments, chemicals, oil and gasoline through the storm sewers directly into our waterways. How can we stop it? How can we use it?
About 0.3 inches of rainfall from the average home roof will fill a rain barrel. The water can then be used for a variety of purposes: refill a water feature, water flowers or water the garden with clean, soft, chlorine-free rain water. They are not expensive, are not as hard to make as you may think, and you can find step-by-step instructions here.
Another option is to put in a rain garden. Click here to get a free design guide, watch a video of a rain garden, and see an animation of one at work, all by the UNL Extension Office.
Rain gardens capture runoff from the roof, driveway and other impervious surfaces in the landscape, filtering out pollutants as they replenish groundwater. Rain gardens absorb runoff 30-40 percent more efficiently than a standard lawn, add beauty and draw birds, butterflies and beneficial insects to your yard. And who doesn't want to mow less lawn? If you have a large area to drain, you may want more than one rain garden to handle the runoff.
Not sure what to plant? There's a resource for that, too, specifically designed for our climate.
Rain gardens contain native plants that can withstand both wet feet and dry spells, with deep roots that increase the permeability of the soil. Once established, rain gardens only need some routine maintenance -- removing weeds and watering occasionally if there is no rain. And did I mention having less lawn to mow?
The next time it rains, take a look at how your home drains storm water, and see where you might want to put a rain garden. It can be done inexpensively, following directions from the UNL Extension Office. Be sure to locate utilities before you start to dig.
If these aren't options for you now, you can follow these easy steps to help keep the water that is draining clean. You and your family can attend World O Water, a free, educational event with lots of activities.