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News and Resources

Ways to Reduce Coastal Flooding - February 21, 2016

                As we have seen with Hurricane Joaquin and Winter Storm Jonas, one of the biggest problems major storms pose to our coastal bays’ watershed is flooding. Due to a variety of factors, including tides, a high water table, and porous soils, we often experience flooding during major rainstorm events, which can cause serious damage to houses, businesses, and other infrastructure.

                While it may seem daunting, there are many simple solutions that most homeowners or families can do to help reduce local flooding in their area and improve water quality.

                One of the easiest ways to reduce flooding from storms around the house is to install rain barrels. A rain barrel is a simple device which connects to your home’s gutters and holds stormwater instead of immediately letting it run off into your yard or street. Most rain barrels hold about 50 gallons of rainwater and can be connected in series so that they can store even more stormwater. The water caught and held in the barrels can be used to do any number of things, including watering gardens or washing your car, and because its rain water, it is free and does not increase your water bill.

                Another effective way to help mitigate flooding is to install a rain garden. A rain garden is a great way to reduce flooding in your yard and help reduce water pollutants, all while beautifying your yard and attracting wildlife. Rain gardens are usually placed in the lowest area of the lawn and consist of layered soil types with plants to help retain water without creating a pond or open water.

                The most crucial part of implementing a rain garden is the planning. Finding a suitable location for the garden is equally as important as the soil and plants used. Rain gardens are also useful in reducing the amount of pollution that reaches our coastal bays because the plants and soil help to retain and break down harmful pollutants.  When planting a rain garden, it is best to use native plants because these plants can survive the major seasonal fluctuations of the coastal bays’ climate, are better habitat for local animals, and are better adapted to living in partially flooded and wet soils. A properly placed rain garden can have most of the stormwater from one or more yards running into it, resulting in wet or partially flooded soils. Native plants also require little to no fertilizers or pesticides because they are already accustomed to our soil composition and pest problems.

                There are numerous lawn tips to help reduce flooding and improve water quality. Try to use fertilizer or pesticides as little as possible. When stormwater runs off lawns where fertilizer and pesticides were applied, it picks up these pollutants and carries them into the coastal bays, contributing to numerous water quality issues.

                Another tip to help reduce flooding and water pollution is to let your lawn grow. You save time and money on gas for the lawn mower, and it is better for the grass to be longer as it is less prone to disease, is naturally thicker, and helps hold water better due to a more extensive root system.

                One more good way to reduce local flooding of streets and houses is to make sure storm drains in your neighborhood are stenciled and remain trash free. Stenciling a storm drain is easy; you can either attach a sticker or spray paint a pre-made stencil that states that the storm drain leads to a body of water and should remain debris free. Storm drains often empty straight into bodies of water, so any trash that gets into the storm drains is carried straight into our rivers and coastal bays. By keeping storm drains clean, it greatly increases their effectiveness.

                While picking up pet waste will not reduce flooding, it will help reduce nutrient pollution in our coastal bays. Dog and other pet wastes cause many water quality problems. Pet waste that is washed into the coastal bays can also be a problem for human health because it may contain bacteria such as E. coli, in addition to viruses and parasites.

                As we all know, water runs downhill. This means that while one family might do everything right in their yard, if they are downhill from neighbors who use no stormwater management practices, then the family that lives downhill can still be inundated with stormwater that did not even fall on their property. We must work together as a community to help control local flooding in our coastal bays area because stormwater does not affect one or two families — it affects us all.

For more information on how to reduce flooding and improve water quality, check out the Coastal Bays Homeowners Guide at http://www.mdcoastalbays.org/files/pdfs_pdf/Home_Owner_s_Guide.pdf

The Maryland Coastal Bays Program is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, your tax deductible donations make it possible for us to continue our work of protecting the Coastal Bays.


Harrison Jackson is the former Educational Coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and current graduate student at Clemson University.



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