Ocean Friendly Gardens
Water running off our properties picks ups pollutants like fertilizers, pesticides, animal poo, and fine sediment as well as oil, brake pad dust and exhaust from cars. Runoff also contributes to flooding, and it wastes a free source of irrigation in the landscape.
Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) revive our watersheds and oceans by applying CPR - Conservation, Permeability and Retention- to our landscapes and hardscapes. Learn more!
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Urban runoff is the #1 source of ocean pollution. Water running off our properties picks ups pollutants like fertilizers, pesticides, animal poo, and fine sediment as well as oil, brake pad dust and exhaust from cars.
On average, 40-70% of residential water use is happening outdoors.
The first one-inch of rain after a dry spell is called the "first flush," and contains most of the pollutants during a rainstorm. Traditional building codes have directed rainwater off the property to prevent flooding of a site.
But this runoff contributes to flooding of neighborhoods and erosion of stream banks. It also can overwhelm sewer systems in which the storm drains and sewer infrastructure is combined. Plus, this wastes a free source of irrigation for the landscape.
Down The Drain
What's In That?
In that urban runoff are pollutants such as:
• Synthetic fertilizers - increased nutrients leads to algal blooms and red tides, lowering dissolved oxygen levels enough to kill aquatic habitat and fisheries.
• Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides - poison humans, marine life and soil biology.
• Automobile engine oil, exhaust and brake pad dust as well as exhaust from utilities - poison marine life.
• Bacteria - sicken humans and marine life, and can close beaches.
• Sediment (soil) - the finer material can be laced with heavy metals, and too much sediment can smother coral. Some (larger) sediment transport is needed to maintain stream banks and river bottoms as well as replenish beaches. (All four of these bullets also contribute to Ocean Acidification (OA), which decreases shell- and skeleton-forming calcium carbonates in the ocean, among other problems. This causes sea life like shell fish and coral to either decline or try to put more energy into gathering carbonates, having less energy to survive.)
What's In That? (Cont.)
• Turbidity - per this website, it's the degree to which water "loses its transparency due to the presence of suspended particulates. The suspended particles absorb heat from the sunlight, making turbid waters become warmer, and so reducing the concentration of oxygen in the water (oxygen dissolves better in colder water). Some organisms also can’t survive in warmer water. The suspended particles scatter the light, thus decreasing the photosynthetic activity of plants and algae, which contributes to lowering the oxygen concentration even more.
As a consequence of the particles settling to the bottom, shallow lakes fill in faster, fish eggs and insect larvae are covered and suffocated, gill structures get clogged or damaged."
Runoff also happens during dry periods, known as dry-weather runoff, with sprinklers overwatering and overshooting the landscape.
What A Waste
CPR: Conservation, Permeability and Retention
Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) revive our watersheds and oceans by applying CPR - Conservation, Permeability and Retention- to our landscapes and hardscapes. OFGs utilize rainwater as the first source of irrigation, create permeable soil and hard surfaces to sponge it up and filter it, and conserve water, energy and wildlife habitat through native plants (and use drip irrigation to help establish the garden and supplement irrigation).
Vegetable and fruit trees can be part of OFGs as long as they "apply CPR." Click here for the OFG Sign Criteria.
Gardens and hard surfaces can prevent runoff and flooding, and still be beautiful, resourceful, and wildlife-friendly. How?
Apply CPR - Conservation, Permeability and Retention - to our watersheds and oceans:
Conservation of water, energy and habitat through native and/or climate adapted plants, spaced for mature growth, maintained organically and using the most efficient irrigation system to supplement rainwater use (the same applies to vegetable and fruit gardens).
Image Courtesy Surfrider
Permeability and Retention
Permeability: through the use of mulch and biologically active soil as well as using permeable materials for - or making cuts in existing - driveways, walkways and patios that allow water to percolate into the soil.
Retention devices like swales/dry streambeds soak up rainwater in the soil, preventing it from rushing off of the property and filtering pollutants. Water sponged up in soil provides natural flood control and supports soil microorganisms, which bring water to plants as they "request" it. Rain barrels, with overflows to landscapes, can provide water for vegetable plants during dry months.
3 Steps to Take Now
1. Direct rainwater into a permeable area like landscaping (such as a basin or dry stream bed)
2. Apply mulch (such as from a local tree trimmer)
3. Install some native plants
4. Replace spray-head irrigation with drip irrigation
All The Benefits!
Surfrider's Ocean Friendly Gardens Program Coordinator, Paul Herzog, explains the benefits of applying CPR - Conservation, Permeability and Retention - to your landscape.