Monday, June 13, 2011

Gravity Plus Rainwater= Backyard Waterfall

Garrison Keillor  made a disparaging remark about drainage during his show at McCarter Theater this past winter, but for many Princetonians, what seems like a mundane subject can raise considerable passion, particularly when the runoff is coming from the neighbor just up the hill, or results in basement flooding.

My advice is to give the water a good ride through the yard. Don't spurn it, or consign it to underground pipes. Water can be mischievous, but its obedience to gravity is absolute. Herded away from the foundation, it can flow on the surface to make attractive ephemeral streams and waterfalls, and feed plantings.

There's no reason, for instance, why water must fall from roof gutters in the obscure confines of a downspout. In this project, water emerges from a gutter (obscured by the shrub) in a small waterfall that is carried away from the house on a rockstrewn "streambed" underlain by black plastic.
The roof runoff flows down the rocks some 20 feet into a small raingarden (not in photo), where it collects and seeps into the ground, feeding nearby trees and any roots that reach it from the vegetable garden. In a deluge, the raingarden in turn overflows onto the lawn, where the water continues downhill as sheetflow. Whatever doesn't get absorbed eventually flows between the two neighboring houses down the slope and into a storm drain.

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