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New Gardens in Detroit May Help Improve Water Quality

Bio-retention gardens filtering storm water

In empty lots across Detroit’s Warrendale neighborhood, small patches of flowers and shrubs are thriving. Known as bio-retention gardens, they are part of a University of Michigan project to help filter contaminants out of storm water.

Project head Joan Nassauer says the gardens, which contain an absorbent type of soil, absorb water which would otherwise disappear down storm drains or flood into streets. Instead, the water filters through the soil and enters the regional groundwater. Due to the potential for contamination by run-off, vegetables cannot be grown, but each garden contains flowers and shrubs chosen for their low maintenance requirements.

Detroit’s bio-retention project is a reflection of the nation’s increasingly creative approach to water retention and reuse. In many ways the bio-retention garden is a highly engineered version of rain gardens, which gardeners have been using to prevent rainfall run-off for years.

Raingardens are small depressions usually situated at a naturally occurring low point in a garden’s landscape. The depression contains native soil enriched with compost and planted with vegetation that can survive moisture extremes. Plants must also be capable of surviving high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, both of which are often found in run-off.

Rainwater is directed into the garden, often from a rain barrel, and an above ground overflow is installed to handle excess run-off. The garden traps water, filtering it and allowing it to permeate surrounding soil.

Innovative projects such as rain gardens and bio-retention beds help us maximize our use of available water, redirecting water that would otherwise be flushed out into seas and lakes in an untreated state. In much the same way, Pelican’s low-flow showerheads and salt-free water softeners help you conserve more water, lowering your utility bills and your ecological footprint.

new gardens in Detroit

Pelican Combo System Salt-Free Water Softener Whole-House Water Filter