Rainwater filtration saves money, environment

Friday, Dec. 25, 2009

In the Nov. 4 issue article "Right as rain," I found that several residents in St. Mary's are learning to preserve rainwater by using rain barrels to "conserve and block pollutants from getting into … waterways." Great, right? Well, what if we had every resident in the area invest in a barrel, and consequently persuaded our land use and growth management officials to install actual systems into our public spaces?

As a landscape architecture undergraduate at Penn State, natural stormwater filtration is a popular topic that many people in my career field have been strongly focusing on.

This semester I am in the process of proposing a site within State College Borough to modify part of a major intersection into a system of natural rainwater filtration.

According to the Sustainable Sites Initiative — a program that promotes sustainability within all types of environments — 70 percent of water pollution is a result of polluted and contaminated stormwater runoff, while 7 billion gallons of water nationwide is used for more than a third of residential water use each day. If everyone were able to acquire a rain barrel in State College Borough, or even St. Mary's, to use for something as small as their garden, these percentages would drop dramatically. Instead of paying for water, we could use water straight from the sky for our everyday needs such as showering or watering our lawns. This in turn could even possibly mean cheaper water bills in the future.

As part of a project for rainwater filtration, I am proposing rain gardens and "natural" drains for one of State College's busiest downtown intersections. By using native plants and decorative drains and grates, the proposal, if enacted, could help the borough to become more economically sustainable and environmentally friendly.

As a native of St. Mary's, I am aware of the vast amounts of construction going on around the area, but rainwater is probably one larger issue that most people are not concerned about. The most polluted rainwater that harms our environment comes from most construction sites. We can help make this problem go away in our homes, businesses, and public spaces. Natural rainwater drainage sites can be put in privately near gardens and under rain gutters, and publicly at drainages along roads, intersections, and shopping areas.

Just like the Fletcher family and many other residents of Southern Maryland, we should begin to take part in the green movement that is happening all around us. By adding systems of natural stormwater filtration, people will not only be saving money in water costs, but will also be improving the environment.

What better location to begin a rainwater filtration project than neighborhoods of our community, and the Chesapeake Bay in our very own backyards?

Katie Rudowsky, University Park, Pa.