Friday, July 23, 2010

CMU: Man Made Localized Rain and Water Landscaping

I was walking through CMU the other day, one of the recent days where thunderstorms were building but no rain had yet fallen.  Yet, despite the lack of rain, I came across an area of water dripping off the Fine Arts Building.


Closer inspection revealed the water was coming from a small pipe, almost certainly attached to an air conditioner.  Markings on the building made it appear that this pipe contains at least some water through most of the summer.

Rainstorms form when moist air is cooled (usually because it rises into cooler layers of the atmosphere).  Air conditioners also cool air, of course, and in the process water condenses just like it does inside a thunderhead.  This particular water drops into an area of yew bushes and is absorbed by the soil, so it isn't adding to excessive runoff.  Still, the amount of water was significant and it seemed a waste to just let it stain the building and drip on generic landscaping.  I think it would be a really fun project for someone to do something with this water - hook it up to some rain chains, or create a little wetland where the water lands and see if it can be kept full using just air conditioner water.  If any CMU art students read this - you should do this!

Someone had also mentioned to me that there was some runoff-friendly landscaping near the Computer Science building so I went looking for it.  I found a very neat little constructed wetland and adjacent landscaping that took in flows from nearby impervious landscaping, rather than channeling it underground.



The wetland is not exactly a rain garden because it is intended to retain water rather than to allow it to soak in immediately.  I am not sure of the details of how this wetland is set up but it definitely is at least partially fed by water by rainwater runoff.  I like the idea of creating small creeks and swales with water that runs off of impervious areas.  Ultimately it is best to allow the water to soak in but there's nothing wrong with routing the water down some little ephemeral creeks in the mean time!


This little channel drains the path next to it.  It could do with a few more pebbles, but still is neat. 

I especially liked this particular landscaping because it contained a bunch of native plants that are also found in the wetlands around Vermont - so it reminded me of home.

I was hoping to get to see this garden during a rain, and sure enough a few drops fell on me while I was there but that particular storm passed by to the south, so I didn't get to see it fill up for now.

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