Slow it, Spread it, Sink It

Water moving across the land picks up and carries many things with it as it moves.  Fast moving water has a lot of power and can move large items – trees, buildings, even boulders.  Slow water carries things too.  Since slow-flowing water doesn’t have much power, it carries small things like soil or dissolved substances like phosphorus and salt.  No matter how fast or how slow, water carries these things downhill to our lakes and ponds.  Over time, even the small things can have a big impact on water quality.

That’s why one of the biggest things that you can do to protect our lakes and ponds starts right in your

yard.  Go outside on a rainy day and watch how water moves in your yard.  Make some careful observations:  Where does it go?  What does it look like?  Even with just a little rain, it’s probably murky and flows down your driveway to the storm drain or the ditch along the road.  For the sake of your lake, start thinking about changes that you can make to keep that water on your property long enough for it to sink into the ground.

Most of our properties have been designed to move water off as quickly as possible.  That is a problem for several reasons:

  • fast flowing water erodes the ground, sending sediment and pollutants to our lakes and streams
  • with the increased amount of impervious surfaces in our watersheds, more water is carried quickly to streams.  The increased flow increases erosion in the stream itself.
  • all that water going directly to streams and rivers doesn’t sink into the ground get cleaned up by the soil as it filters slowly down to replenish the water table.

There are many ways that you can slow down water on your property.  The Lake Wise Program has a long list of best management practices (BMPs) that can help you.  Water coming through the downspout digging a hole in the lawn?  Try running it into a drywell or building a rain garden.  BMPs are available for driveways and outdoor stairs too.  Take a look.  There is sure to be a way that you can slow, spread and sink that storm water.

A rain barrel is one way to slow down the water and save it for later use in the garden. (image from the VT Low Impact Development Guide).