Greening Urban Watersheds
Location: Palo Alto
Have you ever noticed how quickly our local creeks fill with water, even after a brief rain? This is not natural. It is caused by the extensive areas of hardscape in our urban environment. The 40-70% of our local watershed areas that are covered with roads, parking lots, and buildings greatly restrict the amount of rainwater that can soak into the ground. Instead, the rainwater flows into storm drains and rushes to local creeks.
This “flashiness” (sudden spikes in creek flow) creates a host of problems. The stormwater is not cleaned in any way before it reaches the creeks, which means it can carry lethal doses of urban pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers used in home gardens, oil dripped by cars onto pavements, and pet waste. When we force stormwater directly into the creeks, it cannot percolate into the ground and recharge the groundwater reserves that supply our community water needs.
The Greening Urban Watersheds program seeks to tame this excessive stormwater runoff. With funding from the Santa Clara Valley Water District and in partnership with the City of Palo Alto, we are conducting hands-on public workshops to install rain barrels, cisterns, and rain gardens on city properties. Workshop participants learn how to install these rainwater catchment systems and leave with the inspiration and expertise to install similar projects in their own yards. Together, we are taking action to improve the health of our local urban watersheds.
Our Greening Urban Watersheds installations thus far include:
Peninsula Conservation Center
3921 East Bayshore Road, Palo Alto
-260 gallon cistern
-Two 55 gallon wine barrels
-500 gallon cistern feeding into rain garden
Palo Alto Animal Services
3281 East Bayshore Road, Palo Alto
-Four 55 gallon blue barrels daisy-chained together to provide 220 gallon water capacity
2901 Cowper Street, Palo Alto
-Four 55 gallon barrels daisy-chained together to provide 220 gallon water capacity
Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden
1431 Waverly Street, Palo Alto
-55 gallon wine barrel
-260 gallon cistern feeding into rain garden
For photos and descriptions of rain garden sites, please visit our Demo Gardens page.
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