New York’s water system, like those of many old American cities, is a low-tech network of cisterns and pipes that hasn't changed much in the 150 years since it was built. In that time, the population has grown from less than half a million to 8.5 million people. Furthermore, most green space has been replaced with buildings, asphalt, and concrete, leaving very little permeable surface to soak up excess water during a storm.
Rain can overwhelm the antiquated storm drains so that they overflow into the general sewage system and force polluted water into local waterways. Some days, you can actually see raw sewage flooding into the Gowanus Canal. Other overflows aren’t as obvious at first but lead to water pollution and consequent beach closings when bacteria levels become too high.
How can you help ease this burden? As a city dweller, your options depend on the type of building you live in and the kind of garden you maintain but everyone can do something, and every drop counts.
Rain Harvesting Methods to Use in the City
Plant a small rain garden, hook up a rain barrel, or start a container garden.
Featured Garden: A Charming Williamsburg Rain Garden and Green Roof
Consider an intensive green roof system or a modest rooftop container garden. Take care of the city's curbside rain gardens on your block.
Connect a set of rain barrels or other harvesting system to an adjacent building or shed. Plant a rain garden, and use more compost!
Featured Garden: A Tiny School Garden With a Simple Rain Barrel Set-Up