With all the snow and ice we had last week across the southeast, it seemed like everyone was talking again about the possibility of flooding here in Middle Tennessee. Anyone who has lived here five years or longer certainly has vivid memories of the May 2010 flood, which saw much of Nashville and the surrounding area under several feet of water. While the threat of something similar happening again anytime soon is pretty low (the 2010 flood was a 1000-year flood, meaning water levels that high are only likely to be seen once every thousand years, or that it has a 0.1% chance of happening in any given year), even the threat of high water prompts a worried reaction from most Nashvillians. Just this week, the Mayor’s Office released its long-term plan for protecting downtown from flooding, with the installation of additional flood walls and a pumping station set to happen in coming years. With all that in mind, here are a few things you can do at home to help ease flooding issues, no matter where you live!
1. Plant Trees
In the event of heavy rain, the banks of local creeks and rivers are often the most vulnerable places to flood damage, as they are the first places to bear the brunt of high water levels. Planting trees with strong root systems along waterways helps to prevent erosion and keep rivers and streams from widening during heavy rains. Though erosion is usually gradual, banks can erode very quickly in the event of severe flooding, causing significant damage to nearby property and creating a major threat for adjacent homes and businesses. Even if you don’t live near a waterway, planting a few trees still helps to mitigate flooding risks, as a thick tree canopy works to absorb rainfall and slow the flow of rain water into rivers and streams. Basically, you can’t go wrong planting a tree, so get out there and do it!
2. Install Rain Barrels
You may not know it, but Nashville is actually one of the rainiest cities in the United States, seeing more than 47 inches of rainfall in an average year, good for 10th on the list. If you’ve got a rain barrel (or two, or three, or…), then you don’t have to let all this perfectly good water go to waste! An inch of rainfall on 1000 square feet of rooftop produces roughly 600 gallons of water, and if you have a way to collect some of this water, you can use it around the house as you need it. Rain barrels most commonly come in 55-gallon sizes and can be placed below any gutter to collect runoff from your home. They’re pretty easy to install, and once you’ve got one set up, all you need to do is attach a garden hose to your barrel at any time to utilize the water you’ve collected to water your plants, wash your car, and more. Barrels can often be found on Craigslist, and can also be bought from our friends at the Cumberland River Compact, allowing you to support a good cause while you save some money on your water bill as well! If you’re the creative type, you can get crafty with your rain barrel and decorate it to make it double as nice piece of art for your yard. With spring rains just around the corner, there’s no better time to invest in a rain barrel!
3. Create a Rain Garden
If you’ve got a real green thumb, then planting your own rain garden is a great way to prevent excess water runoff while also beautifying your yard. According to the Rain Garden Network, a rain garden is a “shallow depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses.” These gardens can vary in size, shape and plant life, but should be placed near runoff sources like downspouts or large paved areas to have the greatest overall impact. Because rain gardens are sunk into the ground, they act as natural collection places for water during heavy rains, preventing that water from flowing into storm drains and local waterways, which can occasionally be overwhelmed during especially large downpours. By limiting the amount of runoff flowing down roadways and into storm drains, rain gardens also keep rain water cleaner, as this runoff often comes into contact with gasoline, oil, and other contaminants as it flows over paved surfaces. These gardens can be great landscaping features for your yard and are great educational tools as well!
Lucky for you, we’ve got a handful of opportunities coming up for you to learn more about rainwater and to do your part to protect Nashville from future flood damage! On Wednesday, March 4th, we’re partnering with Urban Green Lab and the Cumberland River Compact to host a rain barrel workshop, and we’ve also got local tree plantings coming up with both the Harpeth River Watershed Association (on March 14th) and Hands On Nashville (on March 21st). See y’all there!
– Matt (Team Green’s Event Coordinator)