This month’s blog highlights:
- The impacts of surface water runoff and how we can help mitigate
- What to expect and what’s included in our site visit
- Our Shore Up community learning program
As winter fades away, the arrival of spring brings with it the long-awaited warmth, migratory birds and budding trees. However, due to the melting of snow and ice, the transition also brings an increased amount of surface water runoff. This can have significant impacts on the environment and communities depending on the type of surface—more specifically, if it is impervious (paved) or pervious (unpaved).
What is Surface Water Runoff?
Surface water runoff is the process of water flowing over the land surface after precipitation events. In the spring, runoff increases due to snow and ice melt, which can cause streams and rivers to overflow and possibly flood. Additionally, surface water runoff carries any pollutants from the land it encounters, such as petroleum, pesticides, and fertilizers into the receiving water body, leading to degraded water quality and harm to aquatic life.
The ‘Surface’ in Surface Water Runoff
As mentioned, the type of surface the water flows off of plays a part in the impacts on the environment.
Hard, impervious surfaces—think roofs, roads, asphalt parking lots and sidewalks—do not allow water to infiltrate the ground. Instead, water gains momentum and energy as it travels across the paved surface, allowing it to pick up and carry soil, sediments and other materials that slowly work to erode the land. Overtime, erosion can lead to the loss of topsoil, damage to vegetation and ultimately, changes to landscape. Additionally, the excess water can overwhelm stormwater systems, leading to flooding.
Alternatively, unpaved surfaces, like grasslands, forests, wild meadows and riparian buffer zones, help to decrease the volume and speed of the surface water runoff and stabilize the soil. The slowed water is able to infiltrate the ground, where this process allows water to be absorbed by the soil and vegetation. This not only recharges the water table, but works to filter out pollutants before it gets into the water courses.
Understanding the relationship between surface water runoff and erosion will allow us to implement various practices to protect our water resources, slow rates of erosion and restore biodiversity for many generations to come.
What can we do to help mitigate the impacts?
Green infrastructure practices can help to reduce the runoff amount and velocity by allowing water to infiltrate the ground. Examples of projects completed by Helping Nature Heal include:
Wood chip trails
Raised garden boxes
Restoration and conservation practices can help to reduce erosion and sedimentation in nearby water bodies. These practices include:
Installing a riparian buffer
Installing a Living Shoreline
Practice no-till farming
Can a hybrid strategy be effective at increasing resilience of shoreline ecosystems?
A hybrid strategy is to install Living Shoreline systems at the ends of the walls to absorb energy and protect the soil. An example of a hybrid strategy includes a vegetated rockwall as seen below.
Vegetated rockwall strategy
With sea level rise and increased storm intensity, new strategies are needed to create longer lasting systems to slow shoreline erosion. Through our work on shorelines for over two decades, we see these environmental changes and how they are impacting the current and traditional methods. Collaborative strategies are most effective.
Structures weaken overtime…
The weakest day of a living shoreline is the first day, whereas that’s the strongest day of a rockwall. As the vegetation grows in amongst the rocks and the roots strengthen the rockwall structure, the hybrid strategy becomes the more resilient option. Re-naturalizing the rockwall helps to slow and disperse wave and wind energy, while inviting birds and pollinator species into your space.
Flanking and eroding rockwall edges
In high energy environments, slope toe protection is crucial, but the impact of the rockwall alone can create issues, such as deep trenches scoured at each end and often on neighboring properties.
Our HNH Environmental Professionals conduct site visits to answer the following questions:
What is happening on your shoreline?
- We use aerial photography to give us the entire picture
- We look for naturally occurring features of topography, hydrology and erosion on your property
What information do we gather?
- Interviewing clients for historical and current information
- When was the property purchased
- Typical wind direction noticed during storms
Where are the challenge areas?
- Slope failures
- Toe exposure
- Overhanging crest
- Horizontal retreat
- Monoculture riparian zone
- Storm damages
After the information has been compiled and studied with the rest of our environmental team, we will send you a completed Shoreline & Upland Summary which outlines the issues identified on-site as well as our recommendations.
We will have a Zoom meeting to discuss project options according to your budget.
We will then send you a detailed project proposal which outlines the construction phase for our ecological restoration team, pricing and stages of the project will be outlined. After your review of our project proposal we will be happy to meet with you via Zoom to answer any questions or concerns you have and discuss what has been presented to you in the summary and the proposal.
Our drone service allows for a more reliable and accurate capture of the site by our certified pilot.
Monitoring Horizontal Retreat
When we implement a monitoring plan, we can keep track of the amount of land lost and the time it took to disappear. Collecting data at consistent time intervals and locations allows us to compare quantitative data of horizontal retreat and determine methods to extend the lifetime of the coastal property. This service can be done in conjunction with the initial site visit or as a standalone option, measuring only the horizontal retreat on your shoreline.
If you are interested in any of the services that we provide (seen above), please email Dawn or call our office at 902-543-7416 for a free quote to have one of our specialists perform a site visit and consultation.
Our team of environmental professionals will be happy to help!
Have you heard about our Shore Up community learning projects? They’re a fun way to get involved in your community while learning about various techniques used to help slow erosional processes.