James Pinsky: Rain, rain go away … Hey, I’m just kidding

James Pinsky

The rain keeps coming. Go away!

I wake up. Rain. I go to sleep. Rain. I drive to work. Rain. I come home. Rain.

How much has it rained? Well, I’ve taken a shower to dry off more than once.

Ugh. All of this water, all the time, can drive a person mad.

Want to hear something crazy? Chances are, despite my wet-behind-the-ears whining about all this rain, before we’re sending our children off to school again, I’ll miss the rain.

Mother Nature runs quite the geocentric sprinkler system. The trouble is, the biological timer doesn’t always work and things that need water daily like farms, cattle, gardens and that horribly decrepit first car of mine in 1990, have to have water.

Nature adapts, for the most part, but there’s quite a bit we can do to use, conserve and distribute water smartly. Some of these things include what we here at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District like to call best management practices for conservation. They include directing rain spouts into our lawns, rain gardens or even into rain barrels. We can add compost or mulch to help mitigate soil erosion and add water-holding capacity to our landscape. Speaking of landscaping, instead of using non-water permeable surfaces, try using open pavers, gravel or other types of paths that allow rainwater to seep into the soil. When you do plant, try establishing riparian buffers with dense strips of native trees, shrubs and groundcovers next to streams, ponds, lakes and ditches to help the soil’s structure filter the water and control runoff,  which is a primary source of non-point source pollution in our water.

Here are some other tips from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Scaping Series to help us maximize the water Mother Nature gives us regardless of her schedule:

  • Build your soil with compost and mulch to hold water and reduce evaporation. Choose low-water-use plants. Once established, they can often thrive just on rainfall.
  • Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation on beds — they can save 50 percent or more compared with sprinklers.
  • Use an outdoor water timer (available at garden stores) to water just the right amount, frequency and time of day.
  • Water lawns separately from other plantings. Make sure sprinklers aren’t watering the pavement.
  • When soil is dry or compacted, it won’t absorb water quickly. If water puddles, stop watering a while and then restart so the water has time to soak in.
  • Water in the early morning — if you water at midday, much of the water just evaporates. Evening watering should be avoided because it can encourage the growth of mold or plant diseases.
  • In a dry spell, you can allow an established lawn to go dormant. Water just once a month and brown areas of the lawn will bounce back in the fall.

Guess what? Using these kinds of best management practices can do a lot more than simply save your soil and water. Thanks to a new program called the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program, it might also save you some cash. The Virginia Conservation Assistance Program is an urban cost-share program that provides financial reimbursement to property owners installing eligible Best Management Practices. Eligible best management practices include:

  • Conservation landscaping: includes meadows, mulch beds and tree plantings. Can be used as filter strips or riparian buffers.
  • Impervious surface removal
  • Rain garden
  • Dry well
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Vegetated conveyance system: includes grass channels, dry swales, wet swales and step pool conveyance.
  • Constructed wetlands
  • Bioretention
  • Infiltration
  • Permeable pavement
  • Green roof

The Virginia Conservation Assistance Program can be applied to residential, commercial or recreational land. Properly used, best management practices eligible for the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program can restore problem areas, control and minimize erosion, conserve water within the landscape, restore riparian buffer areas, promote wildlife habitat, vegetate bare slopes, stabilize drainage ways and treat stormwater runoff.

For more information about the new urban cost-share conservation program, contact us at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District at www.lfswcd.org or www.vaswcd.org/vcap.

James Pinsky is the education and information coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.