Death by Stormwater Run-off

Monday, November 17, 2008 - 11:18am

Water is killing our waterways! This was the message I took from Diane Cameron's informative talk and discussion last week. And it's not what's in the water, but the volume and velocity of water running down the impervious surfaces of our roofs and roads into the storm drains that's the problem. The creeks just can't handle this tsunami.

Here in the Little Falls watershed, where every day we have more and more impervious surfaces being created with bigger houses replacing smaller, new roads and sidewalks being built to meet the growing demand for infrastructure and infill development creating new roofs and parking lots, stormwater run-off is probably the major contributor to the decline of the waterways.

The good news, Diane reported, is that governments are catching on to the idea that managing the water before it hits the streams is an important part of the solution to saving our creeks, rivers and bay.

Diane pointed to several key things that residents could do to improve the situation on their property - all having to do with redirecting the stormwater away from the impervious surfaces - be they driveways, sidewalks or streets - and into the ground.

The cheapest and easiest solution was to use flexible drain pipes (those 4" black hoses) to carry the water away from your house and into your yard. Diane pointed out that a shade tree during the growing season can actually absorb most of the water. Actually planting a little grove of trees to take this water was the best solution - especially if the trees are canopy trees like oaks or poplars.

Another solution was for residents to build rain gardens. The county has a rebate program which grants up to $1,200. (I think the county's goal is 30 percent of homeowners to have rain gardens) The idea of the garden is to divert the water from your roof directly to this special garden that will allow the water to soak into the ground. Below we have listed some landscapers who could help you get started.

Using porous pavers instead of asphalt and concrete is another way to cut down the run-off. The county also has a rebate program for this available for new construction or for retro-fitting.

Municipalities can also build rain gardens and divert stormwater away from the drains. Curb-cut gardens are becoming increasing popular. Check out the Green Street Program in Portland to see what one city is doing. Make sure you down load the Green Streets tour map . It has fabulous pictures of all the projects. We could do this in the Little Falls watershed. Contact, Sarah at if you would like to coordinate an effort to convince the county to give us curb-cut parks.

A big thank you to Diane from us at LFWA. She has promised to get me her talk in PDF form. As soon as I get it, I'll post it.

Sarah Morse
Blog master!

Rain garden designers:

Yolanda Del Buono (Yoli)
phone: (240) 506-6914
Rain Garden Design and Installation
Student at the GWU in Landscape Design Master’s program.

Carol Foster Hall
Rain Garden Design; advice on plant selections.

Kit Gage
Site Evaluation; Rain Garden Design; help with identifyng contractors/ volunteers; and with arranging for DEP-provided soil and plants.

Fran McClure
Rain Garden Design; connections with other landscaping experts and contracting firms.

Holly Olson
Site Evaluation; Rain Garden Design; Arranging for soil and plants.
Student in the GWU landscape design Master’s program.

Jenny Reed
Rain Garden design through her firm,
Jenny and her partner, Lauren Wheeler, work with homeowners, the City of Takoma Park, and
the District Department of the Environment designing and implementing LID practices such as
pervious paving, raingardens, bio- swales and cisterns.

There is a part of the Montgomery County web site at: that provides further information on the Rainscapes Rebates program. Pamela Rowe leads this program; her contact information is also listed below.

Pamela Rowe
Rainscapes Coordinator
Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection
Information on Rainscapes Rebate Applications, help with obtaining soil and plants.

Municipal Programs for Inspiration!

Green Streets Programs Across the Nation:*

Portland, Oregon:

New York, New York:

Seattle, Washington:

Federal Green Highways Partnership: