Through a cooperative partnership between the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture and SFA Gardens, three separate rain gardens now enhance the quality of water that enters Lanana Creek during rainfall events.
Regent’s Professor and Director of SFA Gardens, Dr. David Creech, explains that rain gardens aide in reducing pollutants and preventing erosion as rainwater washes off impervious surfaces such as parking lots and into the vegetated depressions.
“Water comes off of these parking lots and is full of all the noxious pollutants that we don’t want to see end up in the streams, creeks, and rivers of east Texas,” Creech said.
The gardens, located within the Pineywoods Native Plant Center, are situated to catch water coming from parking lots of Raguet Elementary, the Tucker House, and SFA’s music preparatory building.
The project came about after a trip to Washington DC in which Dr. Matthew McBroom, Assistant Professor at the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, saw a rain garden located near the National Arboretum. The rain garden, he explained, located in the heart of the city’s dense urban development, works to improve the quality of rainwater runoff before it enters the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. McBroom said he immediately thought this would be a wonderful project to implement at SFA.
“In keeping with SFA’s sustainability mission and also in thinking about how we train students, we decided that rain gardens are a very effective way to manage non-point source pollution from urban areas,” McBroom explained.
To understand the effects of the rain gardens, environmental science graduate student, Zhengyi ‘Justin’ Wang, studied the water quality before and after its transition through the gardens, explored the differences among the rain gardens, and modeled their basic hydrologic function.
McBroom said those involved are encouraged by the results of this first year study and expect the efficacy of the gardens to increase as the plants grow and establish larger root systems. In the coming years, other graduate students will continue to track the gardens’ effectiveness and make improvements in their design.
While the gardens’ primary purpose is improving water quality, they provide a number of other advantages including vegetative diversity, wildlife habitat, and aesthetic appeal. Also, if equipped with native plants, as the SFA rain gardens were, they require relatively little upkeep.
McBroom asserts that the gardens, which are currently being implemented in cities across the US, are one tile in the larger mosaic of practical and ecologically responsible urban development.