What’s one way to keep your local waterways cleaner and beautify an urban landscape all at once? Plant gardens, of course. New York City boroughs like Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens have taken on an ambitious project and planted more than 250 gardens to make NYC’s concrete jungle a little more aesthetic – and to protect local waterways.
Little oases of flowers, grasses, and small trees have been popping up all over NYC with the aid of a 20-year, $2.4 billion dollar project meant to capture and retain storm-water runoff.
The conservation of waterways is an enormous task, and not just in Big Ag areas. Urban cities that don’t have any kind of storm-water redirection often end up with polluted lakes, rivers, estuaries, and even municipal water supplies.
Rain and snowmelt flows over land or impervious surfaces like paved streets, parking lots, and rooftops while not seeping into the ground. As a result, it accumulates and transports chemicals, nutrients, sediment, or other pollutants and debris straight into important waterways. This is NYC’s biggest effort to make a difference. Similar programs have worked in urban areas like Philadelphia.
The Department of Environmental Protection plans to expand the Green Infrastructure Program initiated by Mayor Bloomberg by building 2,000 curbside gardens in total. When construction is completed, the gardens, also called bioswales, will have the ability to collect and absorb more than 4 million gallons of storm water every time it rains.
Through softening the impervious urban landscape, the city hopes to capture more than 200 million gallons of storm water each year, thereby improving the health of the rivers and bays surrounding the city.
This will make boroughs more resilient to extreme flooding while beautifying the area and improving air quality in a city known for contributing to asthma and allergies. The increased number of trees being planted will also improve living conditions as a canopy is formed to lower heat in the scorching summer months.
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Not one parking space has been given up, and with the use of proper soil and backfilling techniques, a single five-foot-deep bioswale can store and manage between 1,300 and 3,000 gallons of water during a storm.
The Department of Parks and Recreation has retained funding from the DEP to maintain the gardens.
Now, if we can start turning some of these gardens into organic, permaculture, mini-food forests with proper water filtration, we’d really be making a difference.
You can see an example of one garden soaking up storm water, here:
“In what officials have billed as one of the most ambitious programs of its kind in the United States, New York City has, with little fanfare, embarked on a roughly 20-year, $2.4 billion project intended to protect local waterways, relying in large measure on ‘curbside gardens’ that capture and retain storm-water runoff.”
This article originally appeared at Natural Society.