The Lower Hudson Coalition of Conservation Districts is sharing modern techniques for managing storm water. The variety of programs operating across the state includes the usage of rain barrels in Rockland County to capture rainfall and snowmelt for watering gardens.
Mary Hegarty, environmental management assistant with the Rockland County Soil, Water & Conservation District (SWCD), said the highway departments of the county’s five towns each received two rain barrels last fall. A state grant was used to purchase the 50-gallon barrels. Hegarty said the purpose of giving the rain barrels to the highway departments was so they could be prominently placed where residents would see them in use.
According to Hegarty, the Clarkstown Highway Department plans to give its barrels to the town’s parks & recreation department. The Orangetown Highway Department expects to place its barrels at its facility. The objective is to get residents interested in using rain barrels, which can help home gardens and the environment.
“It’s simple technology,” she said. “ The idea is to get water infiltrating into the ground.”
Hegarty explained the rain barrels can prevent storm water from running directly into storm drains. She said a lot of rainwater is lost because people have connected their gutters to the storm drains and that bypasses the opportunity to use the water for lawns and gardens.
If additional state funds are available, the SWCD plans to buy more rain barrels for villages, public libraries or schools for use as demos to make the public more aware.
“The use of green infrastructure saves money and benefits the local economy by creating vibrant urban and suburban landscapes, reducing storm damage, and protecting drinking water supplies,” said Hegarty.
According to the Lower Hudson Coalition, green infrastructure practices like rain gardens, rain barrels, and porous pavement use soils and plants to collect, store and filter rainwater. These can help to offset the built landscapes, which alter the natural ability of soil to soak up and filter runoff. Often the result of built landscapes can be flooding and pollution in streams and reduced groundwater supplies.
The benefits of green infrastructure practices include clean streams, plentiful well water, reduced flooding, enhanced wildlife habitat, shade from trees, and visual beauty.
Some Soil and Water Conservation Districts projects that capture and clean rainwater and snow melt include:
- Stream buffer restoration in Westchester County
- Bioretention area in Orange County
- Stormwater planter in New York City
Local rain gardens represent another initiative of the Rockland SWCD. Hegarty said they can capture storm water runoff from parking lots. One already exists at Kennedy Dells Park in New City and another is in progress at Peck’s Pond in Haverstraw.
A number of the projects are part of a video tour funded by the State Department of Environmental Conservation. The video clips are available on the Lower Hudson Coalition’s website. The site also includes reference materials and examples of completed projects for people interested in implementing green infrastructure practices at their home or business. A full-length DVD including all seven segments is also available.
“In addition to conservation districts’ traditional role of assisting farmers in protecting soil and water resources, the districts in the Hudson Valley and New York City are leading the way in controlling water pollution in urban and suburban settings,” said Lower Hudson Coalition Coordinator Emily Svenson. “Small green infrastructure projects throughout the landscape add up to big results in protecting clean water and a healthy environment for future generations.”