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Salisbury University’s rain gardens make SU greener



Take a stroll in downtown Salisbury along the River Walk running side by side with the Wicomico River and you will see litter, pollution and trash floating on the river’s surface.

Plastic bags, empty beer cans, candy wrappers all bobbing up and down in the water amongst a slimy substance floating alongside with it. The slimy substance is the product of oil and emissions discharged from cars that drive the streets of Salisbury, and it makes its way to the river through the city’s storm drains.

Salisbury University is planting a sustainable alternative to storm drains, called rain gardens, around campus to limit the university’s contribution to the nearby creeks and rivers pollution.

Rain gardens, or bio-retention areas, are gardens made up of mostly native plants depressed in the soil. They are designed to soak in excess water, filter it and drain it back into the immediate ground rather than directing surplus water to another location.

According to SU Director of Sustainability Wayne Shelton, there are currently three gardens located on SU’s campus. There are also plans to incorporate them into SU’s newest construction project, The Academic Commons.

“This (excess water) will go into the ground, the natural bacteria in the ground will break down any kind of pollutants that are in there…so it will cut down on our storm water,” Shelton explains.

The bio-retention areas also serve to aesthetically please students, staff and campus visitors, according to Shelton, and at a cheaper price than installing a storm drain system. However, do not expect existing storm drains to disappear any time soon.

Shelton says, “It would mean pulling up the parking lot. That expense would be significant and I think the time to implement would be over a long or fairly long period of time.”

With the possibility of a green revolution appearing in this century, perhaps it is conceivable for new construction projects to implement rain gardens rather than the traditional storm drain.

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