Spotlight: A Different Approach to “Fixing” Drainage

Spotlight: A Different Approach to “Fixing” Drainage

Late Fall 2020

Residential stewardship is a hot topic for homeowners to make their own changes and increase stormwater management in their own homes. “A Different Approach to ‘Fixing’ Drainage” is the first place winner for the 2021 Best Residential Project BUBBA! In this project, the problem was a backyard drainage concern. There is a flat area in the backyard that is pooling water. The goal of the project team was to fix the drainage issue while creating new wildlife habitat. Initially, the solution was to implement a typical rain garden plant palette, but due to the water characteristics in the area, a different solution was proposed. The groundwater in the area indicated a high seasonally high water table. In addition, the site would be very wet during the spring and very dry during the summer. 

“The proposed solution: Make it wetter.”

Vernal Pool Plan

The proposed solution uses vernal pools which are small, shallow, ephemeral water bodies. Vernal pools fit the water characteristics of the backyard due to the pool filling each spring by rain and snow, while it is drier during the summer. The vernal pools can support many different species of animals that require these temporary wetland habitats. This also created an opportunity to direct additional runoff towards the project area to increase seasonal surface ponding and increase the sub-surface moisture level during the drier months. 

The plant palette consisted of native plants, some popular and some less common. Some of the popular natives include Magnolia virgniana, Clethra alnifolia, and Carex crinita. Some of the less common natives include Vaccinium corymbosum, Ludwigia alternifolia, and Dichanthelium clandestinum. The plant palette created a diverse selection of plants that looks like they can be found locally.

In the end, the project was successful in achieving the homeowner’s goals of fixing the drainage issue and creating wildlife habitat. This simple drainage project is able to detain and retain impervious runoff, establish habitat, and showcase the beauty of a native plant community. In the vernal pool, tadpoles, dragonflies, and even wood frogs were spotted. This truly is an extraordinary residential stewardship project.

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