By: Angela Danovi
Program Director of Beaver LakeSmart
In mid-October I had the opportunity to attend the EPA region 6 stormwater conference in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Over the past few years Hot Springs has become a leader in water quality and stormwater management in Arkansas. They have developed a Hot Springs stormwater inspector certification course and require stormwater inspectors to be directly involved with construction projects from planning through implementation and completion to ensure water quality protection and compliance with stormwater laws is a priority throughout the project. Additionally, they have been implementing various stormwater demonstration projects to reduce runoff and flooding and to provide examples to residents and homeowners with ideas on how they can voluntarily protect water quality on their own property. (Visit the Hot Springs Stormwater Management Website).
The EPA Region 6 Stormwater Conference provided a great opportunity to visit Hot Springs and see some of their demonstration projects as well as discuss some of the current trends and issues in stormwater management. The first day I decided to attend an all day workshop led by Brad Lancaster of the Watershed Management Group, where we learned about some innovative approaches to capturing and harvesting stormwater. As a resident of Arizona, Brad has had the opportunity to test various systems and approaches in one of the driest climates in the nation. For this workshop, the attendees helped to install a rainwater harvesting garden near downtown Hot Springs. The great thing about this project was that with some help from the city to secure and prepare the site along with a few volunteers and some relatively low-cost materials, we were able to install a rainwater harvesting garden that extended the length of a block in one afternoon!
The project involved installing a rainwater harvesting garden that was situated between a curb and a sidewalk at the bottom of a hill near downtown Hot Springs. At the top of the site on the upslope, a curb cut was installed and a rock pool was laid out. The plan is for water that is flowing down the street to enter into the curb cut and flow into the rock pool. If trash, debris, or cigarette butts is being carried downhill by the water, it should drop out in the pool, limiting the post-storm cleanup and maintenance.
Photo 1: The rainwater harvesting site prepared by the city of Hot Springs looking downhill
As the water flows downhill in the rainwater harvesting garden, it will flow through a series of rock checks that will help to slow it down and spread it out. The rock checks work like stair steps.
Photo 2: The rainwater harvesting site prepared by the city of Hot Springs, looking uphill
Photo 3: Laying out stones for the rock checks in the rainwater harvest garden
Photo 4: Measuring height from bottom of the swale to the top of the first rock check
Photo 5: Measuring height from bottom of the swale to the top of the first rock check
Brad used a water level, a device made with two yard sticks, tubing, and water in the tubing, to demonstrate how to measure the difference in height from the swale to the first rock check.
Photo 6: Volunteers install the rock checks throughout the project
Photo 7: Installed rock check in the water harvesting project
Photo 8: Plants for the rainwater harvesting project
Several different types of plants were planted in the project. Before planting, the plants were set throughout the site according to their drought tolerance or water needs. The plants with the highest water needs that could tolerate longer periods of saturation were placed in the center of the site. Plants with moderate water needs were placed about 2/3 of the way up the slope from the edge of the curb or sidewalk. The most drought tolerant plants with the least water needs were placed closest to the curb. Additionally sages were planted in front of and behind the rock checks to slow down water and allow it to spread out throughout the site.
Photo 9: Volunteers lay out plants according to drought tolerance
Photo 10: Planting sages near the rock check
Photo 11: Completed Rainwater Harvesting Project
Photo 12: completed rainwater harvesting project in Hot Springs
Installation of the rainwater harvesting project was completed in about three hours by a team of approximately 20 volunteers who were attendees to the EPA region 6 stormwater conference. One adjustment Brad recommended upon completion of this project was in preparing future projects to not cut out dips in the site preparation because the main idea is for water to flow over rock check as it moves downhill through the site. He expects this site to still function well, especially as the plants grow and fill in across the site. A similar rainwater project was planned and prepared around the corner from this one. As the city of Hot Springs continues to develop and redevelopment occurs in the older sections of the city, these projects will help to protect water quality and improve the quality of stormwater throughout Hot Springs.