Plentiful precipitation has never been a well-loved characteristic of the Puget Sound region, but increased environmental awareness is now giving many Northwesterners a new reason not to like rain: pollution from stormwater runoff.
About 15 Redmond residents gathered at on Monday evening for a "Rain Water Community Tour." The walking tour, which was hosted by the City of Redmond, Sustainable Redmond and People for Puget Sound, showcased some of the park's innovative stormwater management features, including a green roof, rain garden and permeable ground surfaces.
The environmental features, which were installed a few years ago using a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology, are intended to help filter out stormwater pollution before the water hits local streams, rivers and, ultimately, the Puget Sound.
Rain gardens, green roofs and the added use of pervious surfaces also helps slow stormwater flow into the streams, which in turn mitigates stream bank erosion and flooding, said Peter Holte, the City of Redmond's stewardship coordinator.
"One issue is just the volume of water we get," Holte said. "Our streams tend to get flashy."
Stormwater is the cause of one-third of the pollution in Puget Sound, according to Maddie Foutch, an intern at People for Puget Sound who helped coordinate the rainwater tour.
"It's really hard to comprehend how much of an impact it has because it happens so quickly," she said.
Bob Berg, a Sustainable Redmond member who attended Monday's tour, said he has already made some changes at his own home to help reduce stormwater pollution.
"Some of them I'm thinking about; some of them I'm already doing," he said.
Berg said he has stopped using bark—which he said is typically treated with chemicals and is relatively impervious—and now fertilizes with compost. He said he is also considering removing part of his lawn and replacing it with garden space.
Even though installing a green roof or a rain garden might be beyond the capabilities of many Redmond residents, Holte said there are many small steps people can take to reduce their contribution to stormwater overflow and pollution.
To prevent pollution from ending up in stormwater in the first place, Holte said it's important for people to keep their vehicles maintained and wash their cars at a commercial site that knows how to handle the waste water. Avoiding pesticides and using compost as a fertilizer can both reduce pollution and help filter stormwater, he said.
"The little actions make a big difference," Holte said. "What we're facing in our streams today is kind of damage by a thousand cuts."