rain barrel

Low Impact Development at the Landowner Level

Urban runoff is the largest cause of ocean pollution in southern California. Our many roads and sidewalks whisk the polluted water from our highways and byways right into the ocean, via a network of storm water drains.

These pollutants include not only the oils, phosphates and plastics littering local streets, but also the pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that drench local lawns.

One of the best ways to address these problems and stop the flow of pollutants is to manage storm water runoff more effectively. To that end, developers and environmentalists have developed a philosophy called Low Impact Development (LID), which seeks to treat runoff water on site – rather than discharging the polluted water into the ocean.

Pollution Solution

Ideally, the city of Los Angeles will enact a low impact development ordinance that would help protect our local waterways. Doing so will require new developments to utilize low impact development principles in new construction projects. Additionally, the ordinance would provide local authorities with enforcement capabilities to help ensure the long-term stability of the movement.

By simply implementing LID principles on public lands and right-of-ways, the City of Los Angeles could reduce a significant portion of the runoff water problem. According to Community Conservancy International, employing LID principles on the city’s publicly owned lands would eliminate approximately 40 percent of the city’s runoff water problems.

Low Impact Locals

While it seems likely that an LID ordinance will eventually come to fruition, the problems associated with runoff water continue to multiply. Accordingly, conscientious landowners should begin installing LID systems wherever practical.

No matter how large or small your property is, you can implement low impact development and become part of the solution.  Whether you own a single-family residence or a 1,000-unit industrial complex, LID principles help you to help the planet.

Personalized Solutions

The best strategies for your site depend in large part on the specific characteristics of your land and its place within the water shed. However, many Best Management Practices (BMPs) – defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as those techniques and structures that reduce surface runoff pollution – work in most locations.

Some of the most popular BMPs include:

  • Vegetated Swales

  • Tree Wells and Curb Bump Outs

  • Rain Barrels

  • Permeable Pavers

  • Rain Gardens

  • Gravel Gutter Seams

  • Retention Ponds

  • Increased Tree Plantings

Nevertheless, some strategies are inappropriate for some locations. The soil in some areas is not conducive to water infiltration, and the basements in many residential areas extend to or beyond the sidewalk. In such cases, it may be advisable to capture and reuse rainwater, rather than encourage infiltration. However, both strategies are consistent with LID principles, as the rainwater is managed on site.

Low Impact Incentives

Unfortunately, the City of Los Angeles does not currently provide economic incentives for landowners who install low impact development equipment or features on their land. The city bases storm water pollution fees on the density of the parcel, not the amount of runoff water produced by the land, as is the model in use in many European cities.

Nevertheless, LID projects are usually less expensive to install than traditional water management solutions are, which provides you with immediate savings. Even in rare cases in which LID solutions end up being more expensive than traditional designs, you can take pride in the fact that you are helping to clean up the ocean, and making your neighborhood more attractive, environmentally friendly and progressive, than those who wait for the authorities to address the problem.