Space to Grow schoolyards are more than just a playground or just a garden. They use special surfaces, landscaping and engineering to capture millions of gallons of stormwater every year. The schoolyards are built using “green stormwater infrastructure” that mimics natural processes to capture significant amounts of water from rain or melting snow. This helps reduce neighborhood flooding and keep local waterways clean.
There are also things you can do at home to help!
Chicago has a combined sewer system, which means that both rainwater and wastewater from our homes (think: toilets, laundry, showers and sinks) use the same sewers. All of that water is sent to the wastewater treatment plant to be cleaned before being returned to the lake and rivers. During heavy rainfalls, the sewers can get overwhelmed. This water then backs up into basements and streets or is sometimes discharged into the rivers and lake before it can be treated.
Capturing rain water where it falls and soaking it up into the ground—before it reaches the sewer—is one part of a solution to reduce sewer backups and overflows. When rain falls on impermeable surfaces, like roads and parking lots, water is rushed into the sewer system, taking with it many different pollutants like oil and grease, trash, pesticides, fertilizers and pet waste.
Diverting rainwater and melting snow from the sewers helps support a healthier and cleaner environment, especially as climate change is expected to bring even bigger storms and heavier rainfall. Making small changes to manage water at home can save residents money, bring beauty to the property and help make communities more resilient.
What You Can Do at Home
Making small changes to manage water at home can save residents money, bring beauty to the property and help make communities more resilient. There are several relatively simple ways you can incorporate green stormwater infrastructure at home. Find out how Space to Grow schoolyards are working to address flooding and learn about small changes you can make at your home to help!
Here are a few commonly used terms that might be helpful as you learn more:
Green Infrastructure: Using or mimicking natural processes to soak up (infiltrate) stormwater
Impermeable: Does not allow liquid or gas to pass through
Infiltration: The movement of water into and below the surface of the ground
Native Plants: A species that occurs naturally in a particular place without human intervention
Permeable: Allows liquids or gases to pass through
Stormwater: Also called runoff, water that originates as rain or melting snow/ice