Tuesday, January 25, 2011

There Oughtta be a Law

And there is. Cities and counties all over the United States are beginning to require surface water management and the use of effective subsoil groundwater dispersion in order to return water to the subsoil to keep trees healthy and to replenish local aquifers, the supply for wellwater. The means and methods of doing this vary, depending upon the soil type and the substructure of the geography beneath the surface. A growing freshwater shortage due partly to wasteful practices established in the last century, as well as groundwater pollution, has not been able to keep up with urban and agricultural demand for water. This is true throughout the global community, where a shortage of freshwater is occurring worldwide.

It basically amounts to UNpaving in urban areas, and integrating the watersheds into a more natural gradient that functions as a system of drainage and absorption. This means that minor rivers and creeks are as critical to the function of the ecosystem as the big, wild rivers are (the few that are left, at any rate). The entire watershed acts as a system, and paving it over and confining it to concrete channels destroys the ability of the watershed to support the demands of human habitation as well as the normal requirements for wildlife and riparian habitats.

Using this as a basic approach to the repair of watersheds and natural systems in urban and rural areas, it's possible to include restoration of these land features as part of urban and rural re-building and repair of systems as they age. In conjunction with the preservation of wild lands and natural habitat, it's possible to co-exist within the natural range of ecosystems and their ability to provide resources by completing the water cycle.

Methods now being required by local jurisdictions include new codes for water management onsite, along with many products and systems being produced to meet the demands of these codes. The City of Los Angeles, for example, has introduced new regulations for onsite water management, and the County of Los Angeles has required "Best Management Practices" now for several years, all geared towards conserving onsite water before it becomes polluted and full of trash.

Another method that should become required for all new construction is that all paving should be permeable concrete, decomposed granite or gravel, so that large urban areas become a "sponge" for normal rain runoff. The extreme events that happen every few years are already handled by an overdesigned storm drain system that manages to transport pollution and trash to the beaches and shoreline on a regular basis. This would make an excellent State mandate that doesn't increase construction costs and relieves the water impact on the storm drain system because it's absorbed into local subsurface structures.