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When Parking Lots Help To Restore Our World

unnamed (2)When you go shopping next, check out the parking lots. How are they designed? Do they just flush all the rainfall right into a storm drain which then empties directly into a stream or lake? Or do they capture the water and allow it to filter back into the ground to recharge the groundwater table and restore our streams?

I recently visited Whole Foods in Columbia. They have just moved into the iconic Rouse building designed by Frank Gehry way back in the sixties. Howard Hughes Corporation renovated the building and redesigned the parking lot to meet modern storm water requirements. The building is beautiful and furthermore the parking lot is attractive. The water from this parking lot now drains into long rain gardens that capture the water and allows it to filter into the ground. They are attractive and are helping to improve the water quality of nearby Lake Kittamaqundi, the Patuxent River, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. That is a great improvement all around. Now it’s time for all of our neighbors, residential and commercial, to follow suit.

IMG_4098This might not seem like much of a big deal to you – it is just rain water. The problem of course is that rain water that washes off a parking lot, or a lawn, also carries the residue from our society into our waters. So it picks up and carries oil and grease, particulates from car and power plant exhaust, and fertilizers from our lawns, farms, and pets. These nutrients cause algal blooms and dead zones in our water bodies. So all of this pollution does have to be managed. If we don’t take responsibility for these polluted waters, our rivers, lakes, oceans, and our food supply will suffer.

Take-a-way: So this is a good thing about redevelopment. We should convert all our parking lots into water collection systems that help and not hurt our food supply, our surface waters, and what is left of our natural support systems.



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