|Paul Manogue, Somerset, NJ, August 28, 2011|
We need to work better at understanding how the principle of stillicidium works at a larger scale. In much of the United States, we have paved so much of the landscape that it prevents the ground from absorbing rain water. Instead, we direct the rainwater into storm drains which, in turn, dump the water into existing streams and rivers. The additional water volume multiplies as it proceeds downstream, creating or exacerbating flooding in older urban centers. We witnessed this phenomenon firsthand while living in northern New Jersey in the 1990s and early 2000s, and researchers have studied the problem for at least fifty years. In the last two weeks, the extraordinary rainfall from Hurricane Irene caused extreme flooding in these areas, and while this is not due solely to development upstream, clearly our pave-and-drain mode of suburban development is causing enormous damage. This can probably only be accomplished with region-wide planning covering whole watersheds.
At tin box, we’ve exceeded the drainage and paving standards of the local statutes in several ways. As much as possible, we’ll divert rainfall on the roof to the rainwater cistern (to filter for potable use) or hold it in the vegetated areas of the roof (something we’ll install in phase two). We’ve reduced the ground area given over to paving (to about 72% of what’s allowable), and where paving is unavoidable we’ve made it permeable, in order to allow rainwater to percolate into the ground. No water should end up draining away from the site.