Extension emphasizes diverting storm water runoff to green spaces
June 19, 2009
LINCOLN, Neb. – Allowing storm water to flow into storm drains was once thought to be the best way to get rid of the extra water. Not anymore.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln is now promoting the concept of diverting storm water from storm drains and toward green spaces to help protect environmental resources.
Extension has organized several workshops and developed publications on storm water management to protect the state’s waterways from pollution, said Kelly Feehan, extension educator based in Columbus. The goal is to prevent storm water from entering storm drains – which once was thought of as the best solution – and instead divert it to green spaces.
“It’s a change in paradigm,” Feehan said. “We now emphasize capture and infiltrate.”
Storm water that goes into the drains picks up pollutants, such as fertilizers, pesticides and pet wastes. That water then drains into rivers, lakes and streams.
In the last few years the federal Clean Water Act began requiring cities and towns with populations of 10,000 to 50,000, called phase 2 cities, to address ways to reduce storm water runoff. Nebraska has 10 such cities. Larger cities like Omaha and Lincoln previously were addressed as phase 1 cities.
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Extension, seeing a need to help these phase 2 communities, formed the Storm water and Green Space Community Residential Action Team. The team has in the last two years developed seven extension publications on various aspects of storm water management, including ones on pesticide use, rain gardens, and yard waste management.
The action team also has held workshops for personnel in the green space industry, such as parks workers, and has put information on the university’s new water Web site.
“The emphasis is on business management practices for green spaces,” Feehan said.
Communities are responding by looking into new ordinances relating to construction, particularly as it relates to grading and the runoff of sediments, Feehan said.
“The biggest focus up to this point has been dealing with sediment coming off of construction sites,” Feehan said.
The issue was addressed in an NET2 program that included a 10-minute segment on how the public can manage storm water, said Steve Rodie, landscape horticulture specialist in Omaha. The program included information on rain gardens and rain barrels, for which interest is growing, he said.
“Rain barrels are more and more popular,” Rodie said. “I’ve seen more people asking about them.”