When I set out to connect with Marion Divers, Watershed Scientist with Ethos Collaborative, I never realized how much of an education I would receive about water.
I'm a fan of water. I drink about 100 oz a day. I admit taking this resource for granted, wasting it without thought, even though it is absolutely necessary for survival. Even so, it's astonishingly unavailable in some areas of the United States and around the globe, either due to scarcity, lack of direct access or pollution. While many worry about their lack of water daily, I tend to ignore how convenient and available it is.
We will strive to be stewards of water at the Portobello Building.
Marion, whose graduate work focused on studying a restored urban stream in Pittsburgh will be bringing her expertise to the Portobello Building, designing a system for capturing and reusing stormwater on the property, rather than allowing that stormwater to run off impermeable surfaces such as the roof and street. For while this runoff seems innocent enough, it can actually add to the contamination of our local rivers and ultimately larger waterways.
Marion explains, "The water collects pollutants from these surfaces and brings these pollutants with it into our rivers. The rivers eventually empty into the Mississippi River, and from there to the Gulf of Mexico."
It's amazing to think that storm runoff here in Pittsburgh can actually negatively affect agriculture and increase flood risks miles upon miles away.
"Cities across the world are currently working to mitigate these urban water programs."
Including Beaver Falls.
For the Portobello, specifically, cisterns will collect rainwater from the roof of the building. This water will be treated and used for non-potable uses such as flushing toilets. Water from the rest of the site and any extra roof water will be collected in a series of rain gardens which help to infiltrate stormwater, filter out pollutants in runoff, create inviting green space, and attract native pollinators such as butterflies and bees. Permeable surfaces, such as pavers, will also assist in infiltrating stormwater on-site.
Reusing stormwater makes a positive impact.
Benefits for the environment: This science lesson has not been lost on me! Just imagine a building where stormwater is retained on-site without the opportunity to pick up and transport surface pollutions to our nearby river and beyond!
Benefits for the community: While stormwater is specifically directed to the river in Beaver Falls, connections between the municipal's separate stormwater treatment system and sewage treatment plants can and do occur both intentionally and unintentionally. Who pays for this increased flow to the sanitary sewer system? Ratepayers! Thus, keeping stormwater off the streets in the first place is one solution for keeping those costs down.
Benefits for energy consumption: Reusing stormwater on-site reduces the need for potable water, which takes a lot of energy to create due to filtration, chemical, settling and conveying (pumps, pipes, maintenance) needs. At the Portobello, we will flush and know we are saving energy.
Leaving a small footprint affects the larger environment.
"The Portobello site is a fun challenge," Marion shares, "because of this commitment to manage stormwater on a small site with a lot of other competing land uses."
During this countdown to breaking ground, we are thankful for the assistance and expertise of Marion and Ethos Collaborative, as we share our mutual commitment to reusing resources responsibly for the benefit of our local communities, country, and Earth!