Managing stormwater runoff can be difficult. As areas become more and more developed, the absorbent surface of grass and other vegetation is replaced by decidedly non-absorbent surfaces, like asphalt and cement. While parking lots and sidewalks are crucial to our daily lives, there’s no reason that polluted stormwater needs to be a fact of life. There are many ways to ensure that stormwater is cleaned and controlled before returning to local streams and rivers. In our last blog, we discussed stormwater ponds and how they gather and filter water before returning it to local streams and rivers. Today, we’re looking at another method of stormwater management: bioswales.
What Are Bioswales?
A bioswale is essentially a landscape element that functions as a filter for stormwater runoff around large areas of asphalt, such as parking lots. Parking lots often become covered in oil and other chemicals from vehicles. When it rains, these chemicals get washed off the asphalt and into watersheds that lead to local streams and rivers. High levels of these chemicals can have a hugely negative effect on the local aquatic life. By filtering the water before it gets there, we can protect the wildlife of our local streams and rivers.
And here’s the beautiful part: bioswales protect natural environments using natural techniques. A bioswale generally wraps around the area where stormwater runoff is to be collected. The bioswale is simply a dip in the landscape that offers a course for water. This indentation can be an almost straight line, or it can wind along the natural curves of the landscape. The bioswale is filled with stones, compost, and vegetation. A wide ditch combined with the gently sloping sides of the bioswale and the winding flow path increases the amount of time the runoff spends in the bioswale, which traps pollutants and silt. Several water pollutants, including chemicals from cars, pesticides, and metallic compounds, and other pathogens, are removed from the water before it enters the watershed or storm sewer and travels to local streams and rivers.
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