Down the Drain, the Story of Urban Water

The second lecture focuses on stormwater runoff.

Students examine how human development degrades their Accotink Creek Watershed and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.   By taking a close look at the school’s footprint, students are able to analyze the impact their 40 acre campus actually has on Accotink Creek.

Non-point source pollution becomes a major topic as students consider contaminants coming from parking lots and roads.  The sheer volume of runoff is daunting.  In an average rain event, 887,951 gallons of stormwater drain from Fairfax High School.

Lands and Waters presenters, David Alford and Chethan Kenkeremath, lead students on waters journey.  Jeanette Stewart, President of Lands and Waters joins in the discussion.

Lands and Waters presenters, David Alford and Chethan Kenkeremath, lead students on water’s journey. Jeanette Stewart, President of Lands and Waters, joins in the discussion.

Taking a closer look at the school grounds.  63% of the campus are impervious.

Taking a closer look at the school grounds, 63% of the campus is impervious.

That leads only 37% pervious and available to absorb rainwater.

Only 37% of the campus is pervious and able to absorb rainwater.  No wonder there is so much stormwater runoff.

 

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Fairfax Water, Fairfax High School: New Partners, New Program.

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A number of years ago, Lands and Waters created a program called “Follow the Water”.  The program has been  successfully presented in elementary and middle schools.  This year, with the generous support of Fairfax Water, Lands and Waters is piloting a more sophisticated version of the program at Fairfax High School.  Over one hundred students in the AP Environmental Studies Program are participating, with Bradley Webster as the host teacher.

Lands and Waters has brought together local experts to lead classroom lectures accompanied by field labs.  Please follow us over this school year, as students investigate aspects of watershed health and human impact.

Classroom instruction is kept to a minimum, in order to maximize outdoor field studies.

Dan Schwartz, Soil Scientist, with Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District presents a brief in-class introduction to soils.

Dan Schwartz, Soil Scientist, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, presents a brief in-class introduction to soils.

A student helps auger a core soil sample.  This sample will enable students to investigate the soil structure, texture and disturbances associated with construction.

A student helps auger a core soil sample. This sample will enable students to investigate the soil structure, and texture as well as disturbances associated with construction.

Student helps secure a pipe to perform a perk test.  Analysis of the perk test will enable students to evaluate the permeability of their campus soil

A student helps secure a pipe to perform a perk test. Analysis of the perk test will enable students to evaluate the permeability of their campus soil.

Water is poured into the secured pipe. Over the next twenty-four hours water levels are measured and recorded in order to evaluate the permeability of the soil.  The results of this test indicate that the turf fields on campus are almost impervious with 85% of the rain water running off, and only 15% absorbed.  In contrast forest soil produces only 10% runoff, and absorbs roughly 85%.

Water is then poured into the secured pipe.

Over the next twenty-four hours water levels are measured and recorded in order to evaluate the permeability of the soil. The results of this test indicate that the turf fields on campus are almost impervious with 85% of the rain water running off, and only 15% absorbed or evaporated. In contrast forest soil produces only 10% runoff, with 85% absorbed or evaporated.

Students walk to the intermittent stream to investigate a different type of soil and the depth of the water table.

Students walk to a nearby intermittent stream to investigate a different type of soil and the depth of the water table.

The soil this student is holding exemplifies a wetland type soil, grey in color.

The soil this student is holding exemplifies a wetland type soil, grey in color.

As this student found out, wetland soil is not only grey in color, it has a distinctively unpleasant odor.

As this student found out, wetland soil is not only grey in color, it has a distinctively unpleasant odor.

Everyone experienced first hand just how wet and mucky anaerobic soil can be.

Everyone experienced first hand just how wet and mucky anaerobic soil can be.

It was a great first step into our advanced “Follow the Water” Program.  Naturally, we began with a foundation – the soil.

Thank you Dan Schwartz with Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation.

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Frost: Our diverse marsh, six months later

Students mix composted leaf mulch with excavated clay soil.

Students mix composted leaf mulch with excavated clay soil.

A student begins the Carex grayi planting.

A student begins the Carex grayi planting.

Carex grayi has an ornamental seed head.  It thrives in both sun and shade, in rain gardens and around storm drains.

Carex grayi has an ornamental seed head. It thrives in both sun and shade, in rain gardens and around storm drains.

A team of girls join in and the Carex planting is almost done.

A team of girls join in and the Carex planting is almost done.

Here's the first summer's growth of Hibiscus.  It really loves the rich, moist soil surrounding the drain.

Here’s the first summer’s growth of Hibiscus. It really loves the rich, moist soil surrounding the drain.

The native switch grass, Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah' has tripled in size since its April planting.  A great plant for stormwater management.

The native switch grass, Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ has tripled in size since its April planting. A great plant for stormwater management.

By the end of the summer, the plants have matured enough to begin their hard work of filtering and holding back stormwater.

By the end of the summer, the plants have matured enough to begin their hard work of filtering and holding back stormwater.

 

Ready for a review?

Step 1:  Find a drain.

Step 2:  Remove turf grass adjacent to the drain to the size you want your garden to be.

Step 3:  Excavate existing soil any where from 6 – 12″ (depending on your energy level – deep is good!)

Step 4:  Mix excavated soil with composted leaf mulch; about 50-50.

Step 5:  Fill in the excavated area with the amended soil.

Step 6:  Plant tough, native plants that can tolerate both wet and dry conditions.

Step 7:  Topdress with leaf mulch.

 

Here’s what we put in our garden – so far!!!

Asclepias incarnata, swamp milkweed

Carex grayi, Gray’s sedge

Hibiscus moscheutos, Hibiscus

Ilex verticillata, winterberry holly

Iris versicolor, blueflag iris

Lobelia cardinalis, cardinal flower

Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’, switch grass

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Frost:  From Mono-culture to Diverse Marsh,

Frost: From Mono-culture to Diverse Marsh,

           Thank you Chesapeake Bay Trust and Robert Frost PTA for providing funding for Phase One. Fall 2013 Frost Middle School began a multi-phase project that would totally transform a traditional courtyard into… A marsh and … Continue reading

Luther Jackson: From rainy work days to full blooms

Students from Luther Jackson get wet and muddy as they plant a Magnolia virginiana.

Last school year, Lands and Waters began a very exciting partnership with Luther Jackson Middle School.  The program included watershed education, coupled with the design and planting of a native pollinator garden in the very front of the school.  Our first work day was a blast!  The rain just added to the fun.                                                                                              

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 Many thanks to Project Learning Tree for funding this great project!

Luther Jackson students worked hard mixing soil.

Luther Jackson students working hard mixing soil.

Rudbeckia blooms dominate the landscape. They’ve been in bloom all summer and are still going strong.

Luther Jackson students have already begun to place plant identification signs in the landscape.

Students have already begun to place plant identification signs in the garden.