The problem isn't going away. Expect increased precipitation events
Illinois residents are familiar with quick, intense rainstorms that wash away soil and prolonged events that cause costly damages. In fact, a state report documented flooding in every county in Illinois.
According the 2021 Illinois Climate Assessment, Illinois is expected to see increased rainfall over the next 30 years. Illinois stormwater systems are typically undersized for these increased precipitation events, leading to flooding of basements, roads, and yards. Additionally, stronger storms can lead to decreased water quality in downstream waterways and to sewerage overflows.
In today’s world, we have more impermeable surfaces that shed rainfall, causing runoff. Therefore, it is important to invest in green stormwater infrastructure practices that allow us to capture water and either use it immediately or to soak into the ground quickly.
Green infrastructure – landscape-based solutions such as rain gardens, rainwater harvesting systems, and other strategies – can reduce stormwater runoff and improve water quality.
A typical spring storm can drop a half-inch of rain. If you have a 2,000 square foot home, that half-inch rainfall can result in 600 gallons of water heading down your gutters and into your yard. Your landscape may not be equipped to handle all of that water!
At Extension, we believe that nature-based practices offer a solution. By mimicking natural processes, we can allow water to infiltrate (soak) into the soil and away from our basements, roads, and yards. We understand that implementing these solutions may not always be easy, nor typical, which is why we provide resources and assistance through our local educators and programming.
In addition to reducing stormwater runoff, green infrastructure and other landscaping practices such as sustainable lawncare techniques that are part of Lawn to Lake can improve water quality. This is helpful for the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.
The good news is, there are solutions for stormwater
- Rain Gardens: Work with rainwater to create a beautiful, functional landscape
- Rainwater Harvesting with Rain Barrels & Cisterns: Collect rainwater to be released at a later time
- Bioswales: Mimic a natural ecosystem that’s built to move and absorb water
- Plant Choice: Let plants do the work by soaking up excess water
- Permeable Surfaces: Allow water to soak through pavement and into the soil
- Green Roofs: Retain and filter stormwater that falls on your roof
Illinois Extension, in conjunction with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, is offering the Purdue Rainscaping Education Program, which provides training and resources on practices that can be installed in a residential setting or small-scale public spaces project. Rainscaping includes the use of sustainable landscape design and management practices at both the household and community scales to prevent pollution from reaching water bodies by directing stormwater to be absorbed by plants and soils.