Our local Tualatin Riverkeepers is a community-based organization that protects and restores the Tualatin River watershed. They constantly offer programs to educate the public on the importance of a clean watershed. Recently they held a rain barrel workshop.
Rain barrel workshops are offered during the year to community members throughout the region. These workshops are meant to teach people about water conservation and how to collect rainwater to home gardens and plants.
In Vermont we had abundant water coming out of the ground. Our well produced gallons of water a minute and we never had to give a second thought about our water. Here in Oregon it is a different story. We rely on city water and pay for every drop that comes out of our faucet. We are learning ways to conserve water and having a rain barrel was on our list!
Why should we care about water conservation?
Everyone lives in a watershed. What we do impacts the health of our river and ground water storage systems. The Tualatin River and its tributaries are used for drinking water, irrigation, recreation and serve as critical habitat for fish and wildlife. Since we all use and depend on this water, we care about its quality.
Stormwater runoff, or excess water that flows over impervious surfaces into storm drains, is one of the leading causes of pollution in streams and lakes. Stormwater is not just standing water that comes from a major weather event, it is all the water that flows through our street drains.
When we lived in Vermont, very little rainwater became stormwater. Trees, plants and soil captured most of the rain. Water that soaks into the ground is cleaned and filtered by soil microbes and recharges streams, wetlands , and rivers, which is ideal.
In the very developed area we now live in streams and wetlands are impacted by infrastructure that changes runoff and groundwater adsorption patterns. Too much runoff can increase flooding, damage riverbanks and pollute waterways.
What can we do?
There are three things we can do to help.
If we can remove impervious surface coverings at your home, a little goes a long way toward reducing stormwater and helping water conservation. In the Portland Metro area the average rainfall is high, one square foot of removed payment can prevent an average of 22 gallons of runoff per year! Good alternatives to impervious surfaces in landscaping are pavers made of porous material, mulch or gravel. For other ideas check out the website depave.org.
Plants improve water quality by filtering pollutants before runoff enters streams. Rain gardens help slow runoff and allow plants to clean water before it enters the watershed. Even plants in containers help reduce runoff!
Rain barrels are another suggestion. During the rain barrel workshop we learned about the importance of water conservation. We were given a rain barrel and told how to attach it to our gutters. The water we collect is not potable but can be used to water our landscape.
It’s amazing what you can learn during a morning workshop. I am really looking forward to doing our part to conserve water so that less water is going into stormwater.