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April Showers

Heeding spring’s reminder that water is a force in our lives

Once spring starts coming, you can’t nag it back underground. Wind and chill, I complain, stole the weekend. And when the weather was fair, flu kept me inside.
    What’s a little chill? We feel fine, the cherubic pink blossoms of magnolias proclaimed. Forsythia didn’t need sunshine to shoot yellow through its switches. Willow goes green as happily in the 40s as in the 60s. Maple is littering my lawn with a new bumper crop of spent blossoms before its last year’s leaves are raked. Sprouts wiggle through as if wet leaves didn’t weigh all the tons I’ll soon feel in my muscles.
    What I need, spring, is a little more time.
    And I need a little more knowledge, I realize as I read staff writer Kathy Knotts’ story Holy Waters: Churches on a mission to save the Bay.
    She’s writing about Watershed Stewards, many of whom take their vows to help their congregations — 16 churches so far and one temple — manage their waters for the earth’s sake. Of the 160 graduates of the Anne Arundel Watershed Stewards Academy, 15 percent are church or temple sent. Why they come to this mission in such numbers, you’ll read in Kathy’s story.
    Religious or not, each of the 160, I realize, brings something of the knowledge of a hydraulic engineer to his or her place on this earth. Each of them understands the force of the water not only where it falls, but throughout its flow all the way it takes to navigate back to downstream to the big water it’s seeking. That would be the Chesapeake, and where I live it’s not very far away — and all downstream. So the water flows fast, off our roofs, through our gutters, down our streets and hills.
    I have dug a channel to catch and direct the flow from the buried drainpipes that lead from my gutters. Neighbors have rain gardens and rain barrels. As a community, we have put in swales and drainpipes. But we need more, and part of what we need is more sophisticated engineering.
    “Every church has a creek,” says Calhoun,” and every creek deserves a church.”
    I suspect those words are true of every home and every neighborhood as well. We’ve all got creeks, and we’ve all got stormwater exerting all its power to get to them.
    Fortunately, more and more of us, individuals and organizations, are gaining know-how in managing stormwater.
    The first step is looking at water in a new way.
    I like how Brian Van Wye, chief of program implementation for D.C.’s Stormwater Management Division, puts it: “For decades and decades, people designed in the city to get stormwater off of a site as fast as possible. What we’re trying to do is turn that on its head and slow it down and, as much as possible, turn stormwater into a resource on that site.”
    I read his words in a CityLab article distributed by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s listserve, explaining how private investors are taking on public stormwater retention problems in return for marketable retention credits: http://bit.ly/CityLnk.
    For me, that’s a new way of looking at water as wealth.
    Bigger thinkers than me are already there, and that’s a good thing because managing water takes moving elemental forces around, and that’s costly work. As you’ll read in Kathy’s story, the big project underway at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Eastport will cost over one million dollars.
    St. Luke’s is one of hundreds of projects big and small in Anne Arundel County, installed or undertaken by Riverkeepers, conservancies, schools, churches, businesses, neighborhoods, homeowners and Watershed Stewards and the county itself, often working in concert. Here at Bay Weekly we’re beneficiaries of some of that work, organized by the Spa Creek Conservancy. The stormwater fee we pay in Anne Arundel is one source of that money that gets the work done.
    But behind it all is the energy unleashed in each of us when, heeding the call of spring, we see the forces of water at work in our gardens and all the places we call home.
    I think my channel needs a series of step pools. I think I need to enroll in the Watershed Stewards Academy: http://aawsa.org.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com