Monday, October 14, 2013

Social Benefits of Rain Gardens

The social implications of creating rain gardens in Springfield could bring positive change to areas that have been experiencing an economic downturn and do not have the most optimistic view of the community around them. Rain gardens and other green infrastructures serve to both beautify areas by adding signs of life but they also can help to improve storm water and sewage flow. By minimizing overflowing sewers, the rain garden will not only help to improve the property value of homes because they are no longer in areas that have flooding problems but may also help to improve the image that the residents have for of their neighborhood. The vacant lot located off E. Auburn Avenue is located in a residential area that is surrounded by many homes and families. At this point, the lot has a bunch of potential for socially improving the area and also helping to solve some potential economic and environmental issues present in the area.

There are many positive social effects of rain gardens on communities that come from the biology of the gardens. Firstly the rain gardens have higher levels of biodiversity than most urban environments. This is a positive aspect for any home near the rain garden; it would feel more “natural” for residents to see than a grassy lot. These rain gardens are much more appealing to people than grassy lots, which are often the case with unused land in urban areas. Additionally, rain gardens could provide a home for species of plants and animals that people in the cities may consider rather “exotic”. Because of the more natural appearance of rain gardens, there would be a slight incentive for people to live nearby rather than an area without any natural environments, and this leads to higher property values for the areas surrounding a rain garden. This effect can be used to relieve neighborhoods that are in poor condition and attract investors, which would improve the social well-being of the community. Because people appreciate areas with greater biodiversity, a rain garden would be a valuable tool for improving the economic and social state of many communities.

The main function of rain gardens, conserving water in the soil instead of the storm water system, reduces the risk of flooding, which is a great social benefit. Rain gardens are designed to absorb water, unlike the concrete surfaces that prevent normal water infiltration into the soil. The plants that are placed in rain gardens are selected for their ability to draw water into their deeper root systems. By creating an area where water can slowly infiltrate into a soil with a higher water capacity, a significant amount of storm water can be prevented from going into the storm sewer system, which can be prone to cause flooding in the case of an intense rain event.

Preventing flooding by installing rain gardens has obvious social benefits because flooding can cause large amounts of damage and results in injury or death. Floods cause large amounts of damage, can cause loss of home, health issues, and often government intervention. Street and basement flooding are consequences that often affects entire neighborhoods or even cities at once. Not only can rain gardens reduce the strain on sewer systems, they can also reduce the risk of flooding, which has important social implications.

By Stuart Cotner, Melissa Sullivan, and Tori Jennings

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