Lexington, KY -Many of our city streets turn into rivers during a moderately heavy rainfall. Where does all that water come from, what happens to it, and who is this Lily?
First things first. What is causing our streets to look like waterways during a storm? And why is resolving this at the top of the city’s To Do List? Think of your own home, then add to it all of the pavement and buildings in our city. An average single-family dwelling has 2,500 sq. ft. of impervious surfaces – rooftops, sidewalks, driveways and patios. As inches of rain fall, gallons of clean rainwater become stormwater runoff, taking oil and grease, fertilizers, pesticides and pet waste right along with it. What was clean water becomes wastewater.
Many streams are fed by groundwater, and impervious surfaces block rain water from contributing to the ground water supply. This can result in lower stream flows during the dry season. A heavy rain results in a sudden rush of contaminated stormwater runoff that causes flooding. Stream banks erode, and sedimentation makes channels shallower. This results in a loss of wildlife habitat; as impervious surfaces increase, the number and diversity of aquatic life decreases.
Several of our key watersheds are recognized by the Kentucky Division of Water as being “impaired,” meaning they are unable to support aquatic habitat and are not suitable for human contact with the water.
There are many ways to approach this stormwater management problem, some of which will involve government regulation and substantial expense. There are ways for homeowners to make a difference – and Lily is here to show us how.
Who is this Lily?
Lily is a rain barrel. Not just any rain barrel. Lily has special features that resolve some common rain barrel design issues, is a locally-made product, and was designed and promoted by two Lexington professional women who saw a problem and decided to contribute to the solution.
The way Mitzi Bender tells it, Lily kept following her around, “tapping her on the shoulder.” It all started with stormwater issues at the family home in the Cooper Drive area, where her sister, Betty, now lives. Betty would be in her basement in the middle of the night, with her wet vac, trying to keep ahead of the water during a storm.