Slow The Flow

For the health of our wa­ter­ways, it’s wise to min­imise stormwa­ter run-off from your prop­erty, writes Sarah Pick­ette.

Australian House & Garden - - CONTENTS -

Min­imise storm run-off for the en­vi­ron­ment’s sake.

Af­ter the rain comes the run-off. Rain­wa­ter should evap­o­rate, set­tle on plants and other green­ery or seep down to the water ta­ble, but when there are houses, con­crete drive­ways and roads in the way, all too of­ten it heads straight into our wa­ter­ways as pol­luted stormwa­ter.

“Ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments han­dle water very dif­fer­ently to nat­u­ral ar­eas,” ex­plains Ge­or­gia Harper, a Mel­bourne-based land­scape de­signer and board mem­ber of Land­scap­ing Vic­to­ria. “That’s where the prin­ci­ples of wa­tersen­si­tive ur­ban de­sign come in. It fo­cuses on re­tain­ing as much water as pos­si­ble on site and slow­ing the flow of water from your prop­erty.”

If ev­ery home­owner made a lit­tle ef­fort to cap­ture this water, the en­vi­ron­ment would ben­e­fit enor­mously, she says. “Stormwa­ter of­ten con­tains pol­lu­tants such as ni­tro­gen and phos­pho­rus. Grass, plants and soil can eas­ily han­dle th­ese, but they cre­ate prob­lems in our water sup­ply.”

Opt­ing for plants over hard­scap­ing slows ero­sion, can pro­mote bio­di­ver­sity and helps keep the tem­per­a­ture down around your home.

‘HOME­OWN­ERS CAN MAKE A DIF­FER­ENCE BY PUTTING IN RAIN GAR­DENS, FROG PONDS OR EVEN SOME­THING AS SIM­PLE AS A SMALL DE­PRES­SION ALONG THE FENCELINE.’ Jean Bren­nan, In­ner West Council

“Di­rect­ing water into your own sur­rounds, in­stead of down the drain, not only tops up the water ta­ble but also pro­tects your top soil and might even sta­bilise your build­ing en­ve­lope,” says Harper.

You don’t need to de­vote huge ar­eas of space to cre­at­ing a water-sen­si­tive gar­den. In­stalling a rain­wa­ter tank and ded­i­cat­ing even a small cor­ner of your gar­den to water re­ten­tion can make a dif­fer­ence, says Jean Bren­nan, ur­ban ecol­ogy man­ager for Syd­ney’s In­ner West Council, which has been run­ning work­shops on water-sen­si­tive ur­ban de­sign over the past decade.

“Home­own­ers can make a dif­fer­ence by putting in rain gar­dens, frog ponds or even some­thing as sim­ple as a small de­pres­sion along the fenceline to help slow run-off,” she says. A rain gar­den is a gar­den bed de­signed to catch run-off from gen­tle rain­fall and fil­ter it through loam or sandy soil that drains quickly and won’t re­lease nu­tri­ents into stormwa­ter.

To find plants suit­able for a water-sen­si­tive gar­den, look at what grows at the edge of dams and creeks in your lo­cal area, says Harper. She sug­gests lo­man­dra (all species), knobby club-rush and sedges such as Cype­rus (pic­tured, bot­tom) for sunny spots. In shady spa­ces, taro ( Colo­ca­sia, top), sweet flag ( Acorus) and flax lily ( Dianella, mid­dle) are good op­tions.

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