Wednesday (May 1, 2013) Kris and I were invited to talk at a class about Seattle's Rainwise program; it was the last in a series about urban gardening put on by Seattle Public Utilities and held in the library at Chief Sealth School. The lady leading the class wanted some people who had actually gone through the experience to be there to tell our story and answer questions.
This was really fun! It should be no surprise that people who are interested in gardening tend to be nice people, and also practical ... you might say "down to earth".
The first half of the class was a lecture explaining the need for stormwater control. I had not really appreciated the technical difference between "rainwater" and "stormwater": the former is the stuff that falls from the sky, the latter is what it becomes if it hits an impermiable surface and runs off into an inconvenient place. Stormwater picks up pollutants, such as grit, cigarette butts, and oil and carries them either into water treatment facilities or directly into our creeks and then the Puget Sound. In large volume, it also can overwhelm the processing capacity of water treatment plants so that the overflows trip, releasing untreated waste into the Sound. Either way, it's a problem that we as homeowners can help solve by processing stormwater at home (or better still, keep rainwater from turning into stormwater by using it on-site.)
The audience peppered us with great questions, and since they were mostly homeowners like us, we spoke the same language and enjoyed each others stories and situations. All of us are different and our homes are all different, but we can swap ideas and experiences - it was a very neighborly thing to do. The conversation ran over time, which is always a good sign, and even after its formal end we kept talking and exchanging addresses. Some people promised to come by and have a look at our garden and I hope we can walk over and have a look at theirs.
Solving the stormwater problem is primarily an environmental challenge with an economic component, but it turns out that it is also a nice community builder!