Saturday, June 22, 2013

Arks and covenants

photo of field of beardtongue
© harrington
Welcome. Living on the Anoka Sand Plain in the Sunrise River Watershed is a fine place to be these stormy days. As much as sand is highly permeable, and the rain that falls should drain through more than flow over the land here, the rains we've received the past few nights have resulted in sheet flows even over sand. Evidence is displayed in the leaf litter and gully patterns observable when the water's mostly gone and the rain has temporarily ceased. This set of affairs has started me thinking about the permeability rates of porous pavement and the design storm parameters to be used in designing future stormwater systems. The earlier idea was to move the water as quickly as possible away from the sight. We're learning that that results in higher stream flows and more bank and bottom erosion. It also increases in-stream water temperatures, affecting, usually negatively, indigenous life. So, if the design concept is to enable the first inch or so of rain to recharge the groundwater and flow into rain gardens and green infrastructure, and the developed area is consistently and persistently subjected to rains that fall at the rate of two inches per hour, we might seem to have a problem. Is it possible that fewer, more irregular, more intense storms won't sufficiently recharge our groundwater? Could this issue be further compounded be well-meaning but potentially misguided advice to keep growing and draw our water supply from "underutilized" surface waters? Might we be faced with the prospect of even higher wastewater treatment bills since "intelligent" water supply intakes would occur upstream of treated wastewater discharges, thereby reducing the amount of water on which treatment levels are based? Is anyone looking at all of this as an integrated system? Are the differing agencies talking to each other honestly and frequently enough? Has the legislature been awakened from its soporific approach to water management? I think it's time for me to once again drag out and dust off one of the best paragraphs ever attributed to Bobby Kennedy:
"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. 
To which I would add "It counts the benefits of mismanagement of our natural resources and the cost of repairing the results of mismanagement. Unfortunately, for those of us among the 99%, the benefits usually go on the private side of the ledger and the costs fall to those of us poorly represented enough to pay taxes. Thanks for listening. Stay warm and dry. COme again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.