Water Pollution & Green Infrastructure

As the rain falls and the snow melts, that water eventually ends up in our streams, lakes, and rivers. Along the way, it can pick up pollutants from roads, parking lots, and the ground. This is called nonpoint source pollution. When these pollutants end up in our waters, it can have a major effect on our health, our water quality, and our salmon.

With water all around us, what can we do about that? Consider implementing green infrastructure! Green infrastructure techniques such as rain gardens and bioswales are designed to mimic the natural water cycle and absorb the water where it falls, soaking up water and filtering pollutants before they end up in our lakes, rivers, and streams.

From private rain gardens to major urban planning - anyone can utilize green infrastructure techniques!

Non-Point Source Pollution

Nonpoint source pollution is the most significant source of pollution overall in the country. Polluted runoff can make humans sick, harm aquatic life, damage aquatic habitat, and reduce the capacity of water resources to be used for drinking and recreation. 

RainGarden 1Rain Garden by the City of Homer
Photo by Devony Lehner; Homer Soil & Water Conservation District

What Can You Do?

There are several techniques that Alaskans are already using to reduce runoff and improve water quality in their watersheds:

  • Planting
    Another great option to support riparian habitat across the Kenai River watershed is to plant native vegetation. Native plants require less maintenance because they are used to Alaskan soils and climate. In addition, they provide food and shelter for our birds, bees, and butterflies.

  • Rain Gardens
    Rain gardens are beautiful and affordable solutions that anyone can use to reduce water pollution from runoff. A rain garden is a flower garden that dips toward the center, and is designed to collect and clean the water running off your roof or lawn. The water can slowly filter into the ground instead of running off of your property - keeping our rivers clean and our salmon healthy!

  • Bioswales
    Bioswales are essentially long, narrow rain gardens that use vegetation or mulch to slow and filter runoff. While commonly used near curbs and parking lots, they can also be used in tight developments where the space between buildings is narrow.

  • Land Conservation
    Impervious surfaces are hardened surfaces and structures that increase runoff. The most effective and affordable way to protect our waters is to preserve the natural buffers that exist—such as wetlands and riparian habitat. By conserving these areas, it ensures they can continue absorbing and filtering runoff.

  • Downspout Connections
    This simple practice is designed to reroute water coming off your roof, and direct it into rain barrels, cisterns, gardens, or other permeable areas.

Downspout ConnectoinExample of downspout connection using a rain barrel.

Additional Resources:

ADEC Nonpoint Source Water Pollution Prevention & Restoration
EPA Green Infrastructure