August 20th, 2018 by Hope Charters
June 10th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
A smartphone app named “Rain Garden,” designed to help people plan and build rain gardens across America, is now customized with a specialized list of plants suited for Indiana. Through video tutorials, diagrams and tools, the app makes it easy to learn the basics of designing, installing and maintaining a rain garden.
Many people and communities use sustainable landscape design and management practices, such as rain gardens, to prevent polluted stormwater runoff from flowing into nearby rivers and streams and harming the water supply. To stop runoff from reaching water bodies, stormwater can be directed toward rain gardens to be absorbed by plants and soils.
Hoosiers can download “Rain Garden” for free through the Apple or Google app store. Created at the University of Connecticut, the app includes tools for determining soil type, measuring the area needed for the garden, and managing multiple rain garden projects.
The Indiana plant list was made possible by Kara Salazar of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the Purdue Rainscaping Education Program, Rosie Lerner of Purdue Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, John Orick of the Purdue Master Gardener program, Kris Medic of the Purdue Extension Community Development program, Jane Frankenberger of Purdue Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and Laura Esman of Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources.
April 7th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
Victoria Figueroa is a summer intern with IISG. She is on the University of Illinois campus, working with Eliana Brown, stormwater specialist. She will be engaged in raising awareness about the benefits and beauty of rain gardens.
A Chicagoan born and raised, I was not used to being surrounded by so much green. There are plenty of parks in the city, but you never feel like you are surrounded by nature. But when I moved to Urbana for school, I realized just how much of a city kid I was and how much I could enjoy being surrounded by so much green, in particular trees. One night, walking around campus with a couple friends, we thought we would try our luck at climbing trees. This may not have been the best idea as it was dark and the two big (oak, I later learned) trees were surrounded by rocks and overgrown shrubs. But the light coming from the detention pond not too far away was enough to give us the confidence to try.
Now I didn’t succeed, but what was once just a meaningless patch of land on my campus, became a memory I now have a great fondness for. Just imagine my surprise when I learn that those rocks and shrubs I was playing in were not just there for decoration. Those stones and plants were not just there as placeholders. That night my friends and I had played in a rain garden. Our amusement might not have been the use the gardeners and students who built the garden had in mind, but it was very natural.
But what is a rain garden? A rain garden is built in a bowl shape, which gives rainwater runoff from surfaces that do not absorb water, like roofs, sidewalks, and roads, the opportunity to be absorbed. This helps to control flash floods, remove pollutants, improve water quality, and recharge groundwater. Not only do these gardens provide wildlife habitats, but are also an attractive alternative to detention ponds and can be adapted to fit into the existing urban landscapes. This is why it was so easy to walk through a rain garden on my college campus. It did not feel out of place. It was not intrusive and blended well in between the dorm building and its surroundings.
Rain gardens are a relatively new approach to treating stormwater runoff. Stormwater runoff is any water originating from rainfall or melted ice or snow. Stormwater runoff not only transports pollutants, but is also a creator of pollution itself. A study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency from 1979-1983 found that stormwater runoff contributed to poor water quality in receiving streams. This can be particularly harmful in urban areas because of the great amount of hard surfaces like roads, walkways, and parking lots that do not allow water to be absorbed. This then causes a larger percentage of stormwater runoff than in more rural areas. Therefore it is important for urban areas to be able to manage the excess water that comes along with living in our concrete jungles. Rain gardens were created to mimic natural water retention areas, which existed before the development of urban environments and they began to be developed for residential use in 1990.
There are many ways of going about treating water in urban areas, and rain gardens are a good way to start. They are unassuming and they can be implemented in your own yard. Not only are rain gardens helpful but they can very beautiful as well. Like any garden, its appearance can vary. It really depends on what the gardener makes of it. Rain gardens could have more plants that resemble grass and be very subtle or many blossoming plants and add more color to their yard.
Maybe one day I’ll have one in my own back yard. But first I invite you to follow me in my future blog posts as I search for the perfect fit for my future garden, whether I keep Chicago as my home or move away and settle down elsewhere.
May 5th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
Residents across Illinois and Indiana are taking advantage of the warmer weather to plan garden and yard projects. Adrienne Gulley shares some with easy tips for keeping your lawn green and the water clean.
Nothing is more appealing than fresh flowers and green grass. But the chemicals we put on our lawns each year can end up in our lakes and rivers, where they lower water quality and harm aquatic ecosystems. Fortunately, you don’t have to give up your beautiful landscape to protect our waterways. This summer, take the Lawn to Lake pledge and adopt these natural lawn care practices:
- Mow at a 3” or higher. Longer grass shades out weeds and retains moisture better.
- Leave grass clippings on the lawn. They’re a natural fertilizer.
- Aerate soil to reduce compaction.
- Water deeply, slowly and infrequently to build healthy root systems.
- Test your soil to determine your fertilizer needs.
- Fertilize with a thin layer of compost in the spring and fall.
If you aren’t practicing these tips already, it may be a good idea to simply focus on one tip at a time. Understanding the impact of nutrients from our lawns is the key to keeping our waterways healthy.
I will be sharing these and similar tips with members of the Illinois Lake Management Association during their Point of Discussion educational series tonight in Springfield. Visit lawntolakemidwest.org for more information.
April 16th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
The City of Chicago is funding its first projects under the Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy, incorporating green water management principles and practices into current and upcoming city projects.
“As part of the Mayor’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy, which is one of the largest voluntary investments in this type of infrastructure by an American City, DWM has worked with City agencies to identify opportunities to incorporate green infrastructure into existing and ongoing capital projects. For 2014, DWM has identified 39 such projects, which include four schoolyard projects, five complete streets projects and 30 traffic calming projects. In sum, these 39 projects will receive $6.1 million in funding from DWM and will leverage nearly $18 million in additional funding from Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) and other partners…
Working with CPS and MWRD, DWM will provide funding to the Space to Grow program, an initiative by Openlands and Healthy Schools Campaign to convert public school asphalt schoolyards into green playgrounds. Donald Morrill Math & Science Elementary School, Virgil Grissom Elementary School, George Leland Elementary School and Theophilus Schmid Elementary School are currently in the design phase, with construction anticipated to begin this summer. These projects will contain several green infrastructure components, including rain gardens, bioswales and permeable pavement to help absorb rainfall.”
Read the complete announcement, including information about the city’s new grant funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, at the link above.
January 30th, 2014 by Irene Miles
Lake Erie is one of the Great Lakes that is most affected by toxic algal blooms, and finding the cause for them is the first step in reducing or preventing them. Scientists may be closer to understanding just what causes these harmful blooms.
“Algal blooms and dead zones in Lake Erie were severe during the 1960s, caused primarily by large releases of phosphorus from sewage and industrial plants. The 1972 federal Clean Water Act and the 1978 bi-national Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement led to dramatic reductions in phosphorus from these sources and a rapid improvement in water quality.
Lake Erie, however, saw a reemergence of the algal blooms and the growth of the dead zone in the mid-1990s, and the problems are worsening. In 2011, for example, Lake Erie experienced its most severe bloom of toxic algae on record. Last fall a toxic algal bloom in the lake forced officials to shut off a public water supply system in Ohio.
The new studies, part of the Ecological Forecasting (EcoFore) Lake Erie project led by researchers at the University of Michigan, found that the current targets to reduce phosphorus to alleviate algal blooms in Lake Erie may not be low enough to revive the dead zone. That conclusion informed the International Joint Commission’s recommendations in February for improving Lake Erie’s water quality.
The findings, and those of other studies from across the Great Lakes region, are delivering an ever clearer picture of the specific causes of nonpoint phosphorus runoff, algal blooms, and dead zones. The basic drivers of these problems are no longer unknown. The new research fills a critical void in information that has been often cited as a reason that strict regulations on nonpoint pollution sources, including agriculture, were not regulated under the 1972 federal Clean Water Act.”
Read the complete article and findings at the link above.
June 24th, 2013 by Irene Miles
The Municipal Water Reclamation District of Chicago is able (and required) to move towards full compliance with the Clean Water Act and other related guidelines as a result of a federal judge approving the consent decree.
“Some good and long-awaited stormwater news quietly dropped the other day—a federal judge approved the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago’s (MWRD) Consent Decree, which is a binding agreement detailing very specific steps MWRD will take to move toward full compliance with the Clean Water Act and other federal guidelines on an equally specific timeline. There has been and will continue to be debate about whether the Consent Decree is strong enough, fast enough or green enough. But the reality is that it is now in place, and I’m excited that we can finally get to work on something, rather than sitting around waiting. I don’t read too many court rulings, but I found this one quite scannable.
MWRD, of course, is responsible for wastewater and stormwater management throughout Cook County; on a daily basis it discharges treated effluent to area waterways, and that water must meet Clean Water Act standards. The same requirements hold true in storms, and that’s where most of the impetus for the Consent Decree lies: If there is more rain more quickly than MWRD’s infrastructure system can handle, the result is overflows of untreated wastewater and stormwater into those same waterways…resulting it MWRD being out of compliance with aspects of its Clean Water Act (and associated regulation) requirements. To be fair, many other metropolitan areas have the same problems, and as a result have their own Consent Decree in place. Several years ago MWRD, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ill. Environmental Protection Agency began working out the requirements—finish the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP) by X, improve collection of ‘floatables’ in our waterways by Y, etc. When the draft Consent Decree was released for public comment, two separate coalitions of environmental organizations opined that the whole thing should be faster and greener. A federal judge was asked to determine if the requirements were reasonable, that went on for a bit, he decided they were, and now it’s what we have to work with, so let’s get to work.”
Read the complete post at the link above, which contains information on specific targets and goals related to moving toward Clean Water Act compliance.
May 16th, 2013 by Irene Miles
Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes that began to rebound significantly thanks to the Clean Water Act and several cleanup projects, is being threatened by toxic blue-green algae. Fed by fertilizers and runoff, the algae can deplete oxygen levels in the water and be detrimental to the lake’s health.
From The Plain Dealer:
“The Western Basin of Lake Erie, located roughly from Toledo to Huron, is becoming seriously affected with toxic blue-green algae. During the summer months, the algal blooms have been so bad that swimmers have emerged from Lake Erie covered in green slime. So far, swimming in Lake Erie has not been prohibited as it was in Grand Lake St. Mary’s, however, the thick algal blooms are not very inviting to swimmers and tends to affect the taste of our drinking water.
The enjoyment of Lake Erie for boating and fishing has also become hampered by the costs to repair clogged engines and the costs of reduced economic drivers, such as fishing charters and other recreational opportunities. We are dangerously close to severely restricting our use and enjoyment of one of the world’s greatest natural resources.”
Read the complete article at the link above to learn more about threats to Lake Erie, and read more about Great Lakes health issues and research at our web page.
November 14th, 2012 by Irene Miles
Phosphorous is a nutrient that has been linked to significant runoff problems and excessive algal growth in water bodies including the Great Lakes. Recently, Scotts Miracle-Gro announced that they will be removing phosphorous from their line of lawn fertilizers to address the issue and help reduce nutrient pollution problems.
From The Columbus Dispatch:
“The Marysville maker of lawn-and-garden products sees the move as a milestone for its industry, which it says is partly responsible for the phosphorus runoff that feeds one of the nation’s most costly and challenging environmental problems — nutrient pollution.
‘As consumers feed their lawns this spring, they should know they can get great results from our products while also protecting and preserving our water resources,’ said Jim Lyski, Scotts’ chief marketing officer, in a written statement.
Harmful algae blooms in coastal areas of the United States are estimated to have a yearly negative economic cost of at least $82 million, mostly because of their effects on public health and commercial fisheries, according to a 2006 report by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.’
Follow the link above to read the complete article, and visit our Lawn to Lake websitet to learn more about runoff issues and natural lawn care solutions.
Coal-tar sealant, a commonly used application in parking lot and other pavements, is known to be harmful to humans, and threatens to enter watersheds and Great Lakes waterways as well. That is why lawmakers in three Great Lakes states are considering or proposing a ban on the substance in order to protect those waters.
“Negative effects on fish and other aquatic animals include inhibited reproduction, fin erosion, liver abnormalities, cataracts and death, according to Geological Survey reports.
Coal-tar sealcoat makes up about half of the PAHs in lake sediment, according to Environmental Science and Technology. It is why PAH levels have increased in the sediment of urban and suburban lakes since 2000 even when other major PAH producers, like power plants, have been decreasing emissions.”
Read the complete story at the link above.