Reduce urban stormwater

John Young, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.  |  2/20/2009 9:19:27 PM

Sustainable Landscape News Distributed 02/20/09

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists

Urban and suburban areas can create heavy loads of pollutants in their water runoff from the concentrations of people, vehicles, homes, parking lots, streets, small and large businesses, industry and sewage. This water runoff is referred to as urban stormwater.

Towns and municipalities of more than 10,000 residents now must conduct programs to be eligible for a mandated Urban Stormwater Permit.

Households play an important role in protecting urban stormwater because their owners and occupants account for most of the land use in an urban area. Gardening, landscaping, washing the car and other regular tasks greatly affect the nutrient load in local water runoff.

What can plant enthusiasts do to reduce urban stormwater problems? When constructing new landscape beds or renovating old ones, avoid stockpiling landscape soil amendments, such as bark and soil, on impermeable surfaces like driveways or sidewalks. Plant ground covers on slopes and other areas prone to erosion.

Core-aerate the lawn to reduce soil compaction and increase water infiltration. Consider installing a rain garden, which diverts runoff or drainage through swales and collects the water in a localized area where it can be used by plants.

In landscape irrigation management, follow these practices:

– Manage and maintain irrigation systems to optimize plant performance and to reduce runoff potential.

– Group plants based on irrigation demand.

– Use irrigation systems based on rainfall or soil-moisture monitoring.

– Select ornamental plants and turfgrass species requiring less irrigation and fertilization.

– Select and use ornamental plants and turfgrass species that are less prone to disease.

– Utilize permeable (porous) materials in hardscape areas.

– Divert runoff onto grassy areas or beds, not into drains or streets.

You also can reduce pollutants by maintaining clean work areas, using dropdown fertilizer and pesticide applicators instead of broadcast types, implementing a “don’t-bag-it” lawn-care program and not overapplying fertilizers. When using pesticides, do not overapply insecticides, fungicides and herbicides, and make sure all pesticides are stored in a safe location. Also, use pesticides that have low residuals and toxicity levels.

Practicing these steps will go a long way in reducing the amount of pollutants that make their way into the stormwater of our urban and suburban areas.

Come to LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see our urban stormwater management demonstrations and other sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is located near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (La. Highway 30) in Baton Rouge across the street from the new LSU baseball stadium. Go online to and for more information.


Dan Gill at (225) 578-2222 or
Allen D. Owings at (985) 543-4125 or
John Young at (225) 578-7913 or
Editor: Mark Claesgens at (225) 578-2939 or

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