Too Much Water, Too Much Sediment

Lake Superior and all lakes are precious, protect them!

This summer I wished I could have given some of our rain to drought stricken North or South Dakota. Everyday on Lake Superior seemed to sprout a rain shower.  When I read the water quality of Lake Superior wasn’t superior to other Great Lakes anymore, my first thought was of this summer’s rain. Because of the rainy summer, the lake level became very high, and this high water caused some of the soft lake banks to erode into the lake causing lake sediment.  The streams running into the lake bring more sediment into the lake.

An unusual fact about Lake Superior: Many streams and rivers drain into the big lake, but only one river drains out of the lake, the St. Mary’s River, and that is regulated at Sault Ste. Marie. I know the water that flows out through the St. Mary’s River is complicated with many factors, but releasing more water from the lake could probably help water quality of Lake Superior. Read at St. Mary’s River.

We can all do better to protect the water quality this magnificent lake, and other lakes also.

Buffer strips along lakes protect water quality.

Slowing down the water flow can help. Buffer strips of deep-rooted plants along streams and along the lake can reduce sediment run-off, and putting in rain gardens and rain barrels can also slow the water.

The below ideas for protecting our lakes is from the Superiorforum.org , Sigurd Olson Institute, Northland college, the EPA, and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative:
1 .Be conservative with your water use.
2. Recycle as much as you can with the 4 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and repair. And….NEVER burn trash.
3. Curb Yard Pollution. Put your lawn on a chemical-free diet!!
4. Stop aquatic invasives by cleaning plants and animals off your boat.
5. Plant native plants, and reduce turf grass.
6. Plant native trees According to Audubon, oak trees are the best for attracting insects and birds.
7. Install a rain barrel
8. Create an energy-efficient home.
9. Bring hazardous waste to waste collection sites.
10. Love our lakes!

I would add a few more:

  1. Plastics have become a big problem for our waterways.  Reduce plastic use and be sure any plastic-use is recycled. Also remember to say, “No straw please!”
  2. Micro-fibers in our clothes also are polluting our waterways. As of yet there isn’t a good solution. Read about micro-fibers here.
  3. Always pick up litter.

The water we have on earth is the only water we will ever have, we must take care of it!

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What is a rain garden?

Rain gardens collect water run-off
Rain gardens collect water run-off

A Win-Win for water!

It’s  raining this week where I live. How can we use all this water rushing into the storm drains and at the same time improve the quality of the water runs from our roofs, sidewalks, driveways and streets? This water picks up many pollutants as it races to our lakes and rivers. There are things we can do to lessen this pollution such as sweeping our driveways and sidewalks and not using chemicals on our lawns. A good way to clean this polluted run-off is to direct the water into a garden, a rain garden.  Today as it rains I can see the water rush into my rain gardens where my deep-rooted plants help clean this water as it drains into the earth below.  This past week I have been part of a team that installed two rain gardens. Both gardens captured water that would run into the Mississippi River. We had fun,  and were thrilled we helped to “plant for clean water.”

What is a rain garden?
The water that runs off our houses sidewalks, driveways and streets contains pollutants that run directly into our streams and lakes. A rain garden captures this water and the plants in the garden actually purify the water filtering out the pollutants. Like a friend said, “It’s like magic!”
An aspect of climate change is we can go for months without any precipitation then watch out…. inundation, too much rain. Rain gardens are a valuable tool to use and manage the water that falls on our properties. The plants should not need to be watered so we conserve water

Advantages of rain gardens:
1. They conserve water by managing rainfall

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This is a narrow ditch for collecting run-off

2. Rain gardens filter out pollutants

3. Blooming plants add beauty to your yard

4. Rain gardens often use native plants that bees, birds and butterflies love.

Simple steps to creating a rain garden:

1. Remove the sod and dig a hole. It must be at least 10 feet from your house and where you can direct a drain-spout, driveway or sidewalk to drain rain water.  Most rain garden holes are about 12 inches deep with wide 3 feet slanted sides surrounding the garden.  The bottom of the garden should be flat.

Digging the hole for the garden
Digging the hole for the garden

2. Mix in about one inch of compost to the bottom and sides of your new garden

3. Cover the garden with a layer of several inches of double or triple shredded mulch.

Spreading the compost, next add the shredded mulch
Spreading the compost, next add the shredded mulch

4. Plant deep-rooted plants. Most of the plants you love will work matching  the degree of sun and shade.  Also, always work to have a variety of plants that bloom at different times for the bees and butterflies.The bottom plants need to be water tolerant.  Some bottom plants I have used are: liatris, swamp milkweed, turtlehead, Culver’s root, blue flag iris, sensitive fern, cardinal-flower, blue lobelia and many kinds of sedges.

5..  Water–If it is dry, you need to water the new plants for the first couple of months.

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Our shade rain garden is almost finished
Our shade rain garden is almost finished

And from National Geographic, other ways to conserve water

From the Washington Post on managing water in your yard.

Questions? Leave a comment