Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rain Gardening for Orcas

Thanks to my friend, Katie, for pointing out that yesterday was Endangered Species day (although wildlife could really use at least a bit of our attention every day). She posted a link to this great article about ten things we can each do to help.

Here in Seattle, the Puget Sound gets runoff from the surrounding areas, which includes a lot of pollutants. As a result, the sea creatures trying to live in it are stressed and their numbers are dwindling, including the beautiful, intelligent Orca ("Killer") whales.

A major contributor to this pollution comes from the sewer system in Seattle, which collects roof and road runoff along with the sewage. Whenever we get a hard rain, the sewer system is overwhelmed, and raw sewage runs into the Sound. Even in areas where raw sewage isn't a problem, rainwater runoff carries all sorts of toxic stuff into lakes, streams, rivers, and the ocean. For details, see the People for Puget Sound's "Polluted Runoff" page.

To help this problem, Bill and I had a rain garden installed to catch the runoff from our roof, filter it through the roots of plants, and return it to the ground water table. We are lucky to be in a zone where the city is testing rain gardens as a solution for the overflow problem, so we got ours for free. Watching the contractor install it, we realized that this isn't rocket science, and the materials are fairly inexpensive: plastic piping to run the water out to the garden, some gravel, some compost, and some plants that don't drown from being occasionally deluged.

Water from the roof is piped into this bowl-shaped garden where it slowly seeps into the ground.
Probably most landscapers could install a rain garden for a reasonable cost, or homeowners who are a bit handy could do it themselves. The main things are to size the garden correctly and remember that water runs downhill. If you're interested in a rain garden, there's a lot of information online about how to make one of your own. A good place to start is the City of Seattle Rainwise site. It has information about planning and about what kind of plants to use in your rain garden. It also has a list of City of Seattle-approved contractors. Richard Cox put in our rain garden.

Happy rain gardening!

PS  Did you know that you can listen to Orca whales talking to each other on the hydrophone network?

PPS The Whale Trail is offering free Orca Steward Training. Learn all about it at their web site. Also check out this FaceBook page: Killer Whale Tales

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Rain gardens help keep storm water out of the sewer system, and sewage out of Puget Sound.

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1 comment:

Peng Rex said...

WOW, thank you OP, for such an informative post, I dont think Ive ever see such a passionate talk about plants before, anyway good luck with
pipe and drape to decorate your gardens, thank you!