What is a Bioswale, and Can It Help Georgia?

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A bioswale is a landscape element that is getting an increasing amount of attention recenetly, due to the benefits that it offers communities and other environments. Bioswales use what is known as a swaled drainage course, designed with sloped sides and typically filled out with vegetation, compost, and other biological components, hence the “bio” in bioswale.

These drainage elelments combine to create an environment in which water will spend a great amount of time, during which pollutants and silt are removed. The water helps to keep any vegetation or compost fresh, creating a self-sustaining method of draining and pollution removal that can continue to benefit a community or area for years to come.

Where Georgia Enters the Picture

Bioswale in Georgia

Universities and other organizations in the state have begun to focus on the idea of using swales to naturally reduce the amount of pollution found in the environment, and generally make state and local property much more sustainable, comfortable, and energy efficient as a result. By using on-site storm water management solutions such as bioswales, Georgian property owners may be able to contribute to a reduction in the overall amount of pollution that occurs due to industrial production and manufacturing.

Georgia Southern University has already enacted several “sustainable site” initiatives which aim to have an impact of reducing environmental pollution, creating more pedestrian-friendly walk ways, and enacting intelligent storm water management solutions throughout the campus, which include bioswale installation, along with volunteer efforts to clean local green areas. The results so far have been promising, with a decrease in the amount of storm water run off and an increase in green spaces restored.

Lessons from the West Coast

Portland, Oregon was one of the first adopters of the large-scale bioswale initiative. The Willamette, a river running through Portland, was the target of a bioswale that ran 2330 feet. With proper application, management, and maintenance, this bioswale has managed to reduce 50% of suspended solids which were entering the river, saving an untold number of animals, fish, and birds from the negative impact of industrialization, and preserving a state river.

California has also focused on using bioswales, with Sonoma County leading the way toward reduction of run off into nearby Sonoma Creek. Their results have similarly been successful, and are an example of how storm water management and commercial interests can actually work side by side. The roofs of buildings and a parking lot area were a primary area of focus, ultimately leading to a successful bioswale system that continues to work to this day.

Why Georgia Needs Bioswales

Water runoff is a larger issue than most people realize. Roads, parking lots, and other common areas of pollution can all pick up toxins and harmful chemicals from simple rainwater. The same is true of lawns and other areas that use pesticides. The larger the human presence is in an area, the more likely we will have an impact on the pollution levels of our local water.

Biological waste and other factors lead to an increase in the amount of pollutants in rainwater, creating a uniquely labeled “urban runoff” effect that can do great amounts of harm to native plant and animal populations, along with the health of those who live in the area. Storm water management and runoff are key issues as Georgia moves forward in restoring and enhancing our lands. Urban runoff is the leading source of water quality issues in the country, and targeted solutions like bioswales are a remedy that has proven effective. If you feel your community may benefit from the installation of a bioswale, you should speak with a professional landscape installer about how to implement a solution that benefits your landscape.