Waterwise Wednesday: Permeable Pavement

Permeable pavement allows water to pass through the surface into the ground generating more groundwater recharge, faster melting of ice and snow, and decreasing the amount of water runoff from a property. Porous concrete, porous asphalt, or interlocking pavers are also good for trees whose roots can access the air and water that flow through the pavers.

Photos: (Top) Demonstration of porous concrete. (Bottom) Water runoff comparison of permeable asphalt and standard concrete.

Waterwise Wednesday: Too Wet

Many lawns are over-watered leading to root rot, shallow-rooted plants and the spread of fungal growth on the grass. Horticulturists agree that lawns should get no more than 1 inch of water per week, including rainfall. An empty can placed on your lawn can be used to measure accumulation and moisture sensors attached to automated systems can help prevent over watering.

Waterwise Wednesday: What a drip!

Drip and emitter systems conserve water by regulating volume, velocity, and direction of water flow. Plants can be targeted with a slow steady specific quantity of water using drip tubes or emitters. This prevents over watering and watering where not needed. And the systems are discreet, designed to function effectively while lying under a layer of mulch.

Western Nebraska Wildflower Week 2017

Wildflowers endure through hard times, lending their beauty and brightness even to landscapes rarely seen by human eyes. Their flowers and seeds feed birds, butterflies and other pollinators and wildlife; their roots loosen and improve soil; they thrive without care in places other plants could never survive; and they lend fragrance and beauty to wild places all across the state, making us want to take a closer look at places we would otherwise ignore.

Updates on events can be found at http://plantnebraska.org/wildflower .

Wildflower Week Events in Western Nebraska

June 8 in Scottsbluff. “It’s a Green Thing,” 4-9pm Parking Lot Party at the Guadalupe Center, 1200 E 9th St. Plant Sale and activity booths 4-9pm include: 4:30-5:30pm planting demonstration and rain garden/pollinator project overview; goldenrod and pollinator presentations at 6 and 7pm. 308-630-8011, stormwater@scottsbluff.org

June 9 in Gering. “High Plains Prairie Garden Planting Project” 9-10am at Legacy of the Plains Museum, 2930 Old Oregon Trail.  Downtown Plaza Tour 11-noon meeting at 18th St. Plaza. 308-633-1173, aseiler2@unl.edu

June 9 near Crawford. Fort Robinson Wildflower Hike 5-7pm; meet at Crawford Community Building to carpool. 402-580-1293; jevertson1@unl.edu.

June 10 at Chadron State College. Landscape Tour and Pollinator Garden Planting 9-noon. Meet in parking lot along 10th St. frontage near High Rise Dorm. 308-432-6401, lmays@csc.edu

June 10 near Gering. “Wildflower Walk” 9-11am at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center, 210615 Hwy 71. Walk will focus on wildflowers and ways to identify them. Bring water and hiking shoes for the 1-mile hike. FREE with 2017 Nebraska State Park Permit. ngpc.wildcat.hills@nebraska.gov, 308-436-3777, http://outdoornebraska.gov/wildcathillsnaturecenter/

June 11 near Harrison. “Wildflowers 101” talk and walk with a ranger through lowlands, prairie and rocky uplands to see a variety of wildflowers starting at 2pm at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument visitor center, 301 River Rd. Trails are open dawn to dusk. agfo_ranger_activities@nps.gov, 308-668-2211, https://www.nps.gov/agfo/planyourvisit/calendar.htm

 

Waterwise Wednesday: Celebrate Arbor Day, Plant a Tree

Nebraska is home of Arbor Day, which we celebrate this Friday.  See just how much work trees do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waterwise Wednesday: Turn Your Home into a Stormwater Pollution Solution!

This web site links to an EPA homeowner’s guide to healthy
habits for clean water that provides tips for better vehicle and
garage care, lawn and garden techniques, home improvement, pet
care, and more.

is a first national snapshot of NPS activities underway across the United States and the people who are making it happen
EPA.GOV

Greening Up the Urban Environment- Part III

The following is Part III of a three part series focusing on the City of Scottsbluff’s 319 grant projects.  These projects are designed to reduce impervious cover in parking lots, filtering and infiltrating stormwater runoff.  This article will go over project successes.  For an overview of the projects, see Part I.  For project challenges and lessons learned, see Part II.

In the last article, we went over the challenges of landscaping a hot, harsh urban environment.  Now that we have gone over the difficulties of these projects, we are going to outline some of the practices we used that worked well.  The following is a list of some of the techniques that were effective and that we will be using in the future:

A mixture of native and well-adapted plants do well with minimal inputs of water, fertilizer, and pesticides.
A mixture of native and well-adapted plants do well with minimal inputs of water, fertilizer, and pesticides.
  • Plant Selection- Thanks to the help of the Nebraska Forest Service and the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, we were able to use a very carefully chosen plant list.  This plant list included several tried and true plants for our area, such as catmint, yarrow, jupiter’s beard, butterfly milkweed, and asters, as well as some lesser-known selections, such as thelosperma and plumbago.  We will be monitoring these landscapes to see which of these plants do well over time, helping to expand our palette of plants we know to be successful in this area.
Native sedges are a great choice for areas with poor soil drainage
Native sedges are a great choice for areas with poor soil drainage
  • Sedges- While this also refers to plant selection, the unique functionality of our sedges merits them their own bullet point.  Because the projects are designed to capture stormwater, and because the soils were in such poor condition when we started our projects, we had several areas that were poorly drained.  These were the areas where we planted sedges, some of them which were literally planted in standing water.  These sedges have thrived, looking very attractive while serving the very important function of cleaning and filtering stormwater before it reaches the storm drain or is infiltrated into the ground.  There are very few plants that do well when exposed to extended periods of standing water; we have had great success with using sedges in these difficult areas.
The existing storm grate before we installed the landscaping would have been easily plugged by floating mulch
The existing storm grate before we installed the landscaping would have been easily plugged by floating mulch
  • Beehive Storm Grate- The previous storm drain was a typical rectangle grate that was flush with the ground.  We talked about some of the challenges of mulch in our previous article; one of the other challenges is that it can plug a storm drain.  The storm drain we chose for the overflow of our retention area, shown below, is designed to keep from plugging when the water gets deeper and mulch starts floating.  After experiencing a few strong thunderstorms, it appears that this design has been very effective at keeping the storm drain open to receive overflowing stormwater runoff.
The beehive storm grate we installed is great for carrying stormwater overflow without plugging
The beehive storm grate we installed is great for carrying stormwater overflow without plugging
  • Strategic Placement of Hardscape- We allowed several areas throughout the landscape for people to pass through as they were leaving their vehicles.  This seems to have cut down on the amount of foot traffic we receive in the landscape itself.  Additionally, in an area that was constantly being driven over, we strategically placed a boulder.  This not only has aesthetic value, it has completely stopped vehicles from driving over this part of the landscape.
Strategically placed hardscape helps keep traffic out of landscape beds
Strategically placed hardscape helps keep traffic out of landscape beds

At this time, those are the most noticeable successes that we have seen.  We are hoping that over time, using large landscape beds with adequate soil rooting volume for trees will help the trees to be more successful long-term; however, it will be several years before we know for sure if it is a success.  We are also hoping to turn off the drip irrigation systems in the future.  During their first summer, though, we will be leaving the irrigation on to help the plants establish their root systems.  We may have to continue irrigating during extended dry periods.  We will also be observing our plants over time to see how they do- watch for future articles outlining specific plant selections that have done well.  All in all, perhaps the greatest success has been being able to remove over 9,500 square feet of concrete from our parking lots and replace it with a beautiful, functional landscape that will have great environmental benefits for years to come.

downtown landscaping

Where the Water Flows by Leann Sato

Ahh, the smell of Spring after an April rain shower.  Clean and fresh.    The rain washes away the dry and dirty leaving the beauty of a refreshed landscape. 

 

And then I wonder. Where did the rain go that carried away the dry and dirty? And what was so dirty that needed to be cleaned?

 

The rain runs down the gutter to the storm drain, the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) to be exact.   The storm sewer takes rain, snowmelt, and anything that floats down the gutter to the North Platte River. This is often confused with the Sanitary Sewer which takes our home’s wastewater from the shower, laundry, dishwasher, and toilets to the wastewater treatment plant.

The two sewer systems are separate and function differently. The Sanitary Sewer takes water to be cleaned and treated at the wastewater treatment plant.  A constant flow and steady volume of wastewater runs through the plant.  First, trash and non-organic materials are screened out and taken to the landfill. In the next step, the raw sewage flows to an aeration basin where organisms are introduced to help decompose the organic material.  Then the wastewater flows into a clarifier, where those organisms are settled out of the water, producing a sludge which can be composted and reused.  The water is then disinfected using ultraviolet radiation and returned in clean condition to the North Platte River.

The storm drainage system in Scottsbluff and Gering runs straight to the North Platte River; it is not cleaned or treated.  Unlike wastewater, stormwater runoff is unpredictable and varies in volume, making it infeasible to treat with the same process as waste water.  When rain, snowmelt, or the occasional sprinkler causes water to run down the gutter, it can pick up pollutants such as bacteria from pet waste, leaking oil and other fluids from our vehicles, heavy metals from brake pads, and phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizers. The stormwater and its pollutants deposits directly into our waterways.  This type of pollution is called non-point source (NPS) pollution, since there’s no specific source, and it is the largest cause of impaired waterways in the United States.

As an example of this, the nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer are good for plants, in proper amounts. But consider what happens when the “little bit” that runs off the lawn to join the other “little bits” already in the storm sewer, North Platte River, Missouri River, and Mississippi River.  The excess nitrogen, phosphorus and other fertilizer nutrients in the water lead to large blooms of algae. When the algae die and decompose, this dramatically reduces the amount of oxygen in the water creating hypoxic zones, more commonly called “dead zones,” in which organisms cannot survive.[1] The Gulf of Mexico dead zone, where “little bits” of fertilizer run-off from across the country end up, was estimated to be 5,840 square miles in 2013[2], roughly the land size of Nebraska’s largest county, Cherry County. [3]

Stormwater pollution is difficult to treat, but there are many easy to help prevent it.  The main goal is to let only rain go down the drain. Pick up pet waste, throw litter in the trash can, keep the car in good condition by checking for leaks and regular maintenance, fertilize according to the directions and sweep any extra back onto the yard. The list of suggestions is long the list of benefits even longer.

It all begins by being aware of stormwater – where it goes, what it picks up, and the simple ways to help keep it clean.   So savor the scent of Spring after an April shower and the knowledge of how to help keep our waterways just as clean and fresh.

 

 

Sidebar: 

Only Rain Down the Drain:  Simple Ways to Help Prevent Stormwater Pollution

Trash:

Put litter in the garbage

Pick up pet waste and put it in the trash or flush it.

Recycle

 

Vehicles:

Wash your car on the lawn or in a commercial car wash

Monitor, fix Leaks, and clean spills properly

Maintain vehicle regularly

Recycle used motor oil

 

Home:

Properly dispose of hazardous household chemicals

Use non-toxic household products

Sweep the driveway or sidewalk instead of hosing it down

Redirect downspouts to run onto the yard instead of a sidewalk or driveway

Harvest rain water

 

Yards:

Fertilizer and pesticides

Apply according to directions

Store indoors

Sweep any extra back onto the lawn

Use natural fertilizers and pesticides

Keep your grass clippings on the lawn

Compost yard waste

Sweep up leaves and dispose in yard waste containers

Don’t overwater

Water the lawn, not the sidewalk

Vegetate Bare Spots

Use de-icers sparingly

 

Landscape:

Plant “the right plant in the right place”

Plant a rain garden

Use native or well-adapted plants



[1] http://www.epa.gov/msbasin/ hypoxia101.htm

[2] http://www.gulfhypoxia.net/Research/Shelfwide%20Cruises/2013/PressRelease2013.pdf

[3] http://www.indexmundi.com/facts/united-states/quick-facts/nebraska/land-area#table

Bioswale Installed at Lied Scottsbluff Public Library

The planted area you see pictured below is a bioswale.  A bioswale is a long, often linear depression in the ground that allows water to move from one location to another.  It has gentle side slopes where plants can be grown to slow water enough to filter pollutants and allow more runoff to filter into the ground.  This bioswale collects all the water from the roof of the library and directs it to the storm drain at the bottom of the swale.  Roof runoff often carries many pollutants, such as leaf litter, bacteria and algae that grow in gutters, and bird droppings.  The plants in the bioswale will help remove these pollutants before the runoff enters the storm sewer system, where it travels directly to theNorth Platte River.

 

This bioswale was the Eagle Scout project for Spencer Lake.  Lake worked with the City of Scottsbluff to complete the project with help from members of Boy Scout Troop 13 and the UNL Master Gardeners.  The project was designed by Amy Seiler and was funded in part with grant funds from the Greener Nebraska Towns Initiative and in part by the Lied Scottsbluff Public Library Foundation.   The day of the installation, we had 29 volunteers work for a combined 100 hours.

Scroll through our pictures below for more information on this project.

Continue reading Bioswale Installed at Lied Scottsbluff Public Library