Low Impact Development – Protecting Water Quality

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

–  Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi”

Have you noticed new landscape designs around parking lots and other new developments?

Development of land typically increases the hard surfaces of a site. Low Impact Development, or LID, is a design strategy that has the goal of mimicking the hydrologic functions of the land before it’s development. Small-scale, permanent, planted LID features capture and treat the stormwater as it would have been pre-development. The result is equivalent or improved quality of stormwater runoff at the site even after redevelopment.

Low Impact Development features include vegetated swales, rain gardens, bioretention areas, and many more. Benefits include:

  • Preventing trash and debris from flowing into our creeks and rivers.
  • Treating pollutants and protecting water quality.
  • Reducing high flows which cause erosion and flooding.
  • Recharging our groundwater basin!
Bioretention Planter

Low Impact Development is a requirement for many development projects in the Russian River watershed. Designers, engineers, architects and builders can download the Low Impact Development Technical Design Manual at www.rrwatershed.org/project/low-impact-development.

The next time you park your car, look around the parking lot and see if it has any Low Impact Development features. You can also learn more about Low Impact Development on www.rrwatershed.org’s Project page for Low Impact Design.

This article was authored by Craig Scott, of the City of Cotati, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA (www.rrwatershed.org) is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.