Going native with plants: A new-old direction for water conservation
Different species of native plants can help communities tackle issues with too much or too little water.
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Denver's mayor is committed to conservation on the personal front, too. In addition to turning down the thermostat at home and driving an energy-efficient vehicle, he washes and reuses his plastic sandwich bags. "We also xeriscaped as much as possible," he adds.Skip to next paragraph
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Native plants ease storm-water runoff
In Kansas City, Mo., where rain often causes flooding, native plants are providing a creative solution to managing storm water. The 10,000 Rain Gardens project is a communitywide environmental initiative designed to improve the quality of water flowing into streams, rivers, and lakes. (See www.rainkc.com and www.kcmo.org/mayor.nsf/web/raingarden?opendocument.)
Rain gardens are strategically placed in low spots in the landscape and designed to catch and hold rainwater, preventing it from running off the site. (Runoff causes flooding and is also responsible for polluting waterways with fertilizers and pesticides.) When planted with water-loving native plants, a rain garden becomes a beautiful and functional landscape addition that captures water before it can cause problems.
Lynn Hinkle, the project manager, is working to rally the community to build 10,000 individual rain gardens over the next five years.
"This is a 21st-century version of the Victory Gardens promoted during the Second World War," Ms. Hinkle says. "Water is the 21st-century commodity that will most impact hunger, health, and human life on the planet, and this is part of the solution."
Rain gardens are becoming a popular method for controlling storm water in the states of Oregon, Michigan, and Minnesota. But no other city has embraced the idea of getting its citizens involved in building 10,000 rain gardens, Hinkle says.
The campaign was embraced by residents in early 2006. "Mayor Kay Barnes really understood the issue and engaged the public to help relieve pressure on aging storm-water systems by capturing raindrops where they fall naturally," Hinkle adds.
Corporations, as well as individuals, are participating in the project. The Kansas City Art Institute, in partnership with the Brush Creek Community, is building a rain garden designed by its students. And Hallmark Cards is also planning a large rain garden at its headquarters in the city.
Nearly 200 individual rain gardens have been registered on the project's website, and one of those is in Hinkle's yard. She says that her basement flooded during heavy rains before she installed her rain garden. During a recent storm, she was pleased to see that the basement remained dry. "I'm pretty excited about what I've done in my own backyard," she says.
Landscaping that needs little water