How Bioretention Facilities Benefit The Environment

February 24, 2022

Bioretention facilities are one way that CA’s Open Space team manages stormwater runoff — which is super important for protecting our local ecosystem. 

Why? Well, the more stormwater runoff there is, the faster this water flows across our streets, sidewalks, lawns and golf courses. This fast-moving stormwater poses a number of problems, such as:

  • Eroding stream banks and damaging aquatic habitats
  • Causing flooding in basements and backyards 
  • Pushing excess sediment and pollutants into our local waterways

Plus, because stormwater is untreated, it contains all kinds of harmful chemicals, bacteria and pesticides that can damage our ecosystem (fertilizer, pet waste, motor oil, household cleaners, etc.).

Allowing water to infiltrate into the ground is the best way to mitigate stormwater runoff…and that’s where the power of bioretention facilities come into play.


How bioretention facilities work 

In undeveloped areas like forests and wetlands, precipitation naturally soaks into the ground. Here in Columbia, we have paved streets, sidewalks, buildings and parking lots — these are known as impervious surfaces, which means they can’t absorb stormwater. Essentially, stormwater flows right over these hard surfaces at an increased speed in search of a storm drain.

Bioretention facilities are incredibly valuable because they decrease the amount of stormwater runoff entering our local storm drains. They are designed to catch and treat stormwater runoff to prevent the issues we touched above, like flooding and erosion. They contain plants that help absorb the water and provide aesthetic value, and there is also a drainage system should the stormwater level exceed a certain threshold.


Bioretention facilityBioretention facility

Above, you can see a few examples of the many bioretention facilities we have around Columbia (in Smooth Path and Snowy Reach). Notice the slight inward landscaping design to direct water towards the vegetative basin. In many of these bioretention facilities, plants are chosen not only for aesthetics but for their deer resistant qualities, which allows them to thrive mostly undisturbed. 


How you can take action

Did you know you can help mitigate stormwater runoff on your own property? Growing plants, placing a rain barrel outside to capture water for later use, and redirecting your downspout onto a pervious area (such as grass) rather than an impervious area (such as the driveway) are all great ways to reduce the amount of stormwater that makes its way into the drain. 

If you want to take that green thumb to the next level, consider installing a rain garden! A rain garden is a vegetative basin made to mitigate stormwater runoff similar to a bioretention facility, but the difference is that it does not contain a drainage system.

Thanks to a grant from Maryland Department of Natural Resources, CA will pay 75% of the installation cost of a rain garden. We also have a landscape firm on contract for installation. You can find out more information through the brochure on our website here. Feel free to email if you want to learn more. 


Share your sustainability efforts!

Did you spy any bioretention facilities or other stormwater management techniques around Columbia? Let us know!

We know we’re not alone in our pursuit of a healthier environment, and we love to see what you are doing to make a positive impact. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and tag us in your photos and videos. You might just see them shared with our thousands of CA followers, inspiring even more efforts across our community.

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