It's dry now but Libertyville neighborhood targeted for stormwater reduction
Despite parched conditions in recent weeks, residents in one Libertyville neighborhood are asked to pay closer attention to how much rain flows off their roofs and driveways.
The timing is coincidental, but occupants of 41 homes comprising a square block just east of Butler Lake -- the area generates 2 million gallons of runoff in an average year -- have been contacted to participate in what would be a first of its kind program in Lake County.
Using simple measures, like diverting downspouts, the intent is to reduce the amount of stormwater -- and in turn pollutants -- that flows into the lake each year.
The test downspout redirection project being pursued by the Bull Creek-Bull's Brook Watershed Council, the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission (SMC) and Conserve Lake County, would become a small but potentially important piece of an overall plan to improve waterways within a 14-square mile area.
"One of the biggest issues is just the volume of stormwater runoff that comes from impervious surfaces," says Patty Werner, planning supervisor with the SMC. "We decided to focus on making a fairly significant difference by reducing the amount of runoff from rooftops to waterways."
A network of streams, lakes, wetlands, prairies, savannas and woodlands comprise the natural portion of the watershed, which includes parts of Libertyville, Mundelein and Grayslake.
But high loads of nutrients and road salt, as well as erosion generated by stormwater runoff from the 43 percent of the landscape that is developed, challenge the health of waterways, experts say. Stormwater that flows into the storm sewer system also can carry other chemicals such as pesticides, insecticides and oil.
Most of the watershed-related efforts have involved "in ground" projects, such as permeable pavers or stream restoration, Werner said, but the program this year involves education and outreach. Targeting an entire neighborhood was determined to be worth a shot.
"A home here and a home there doesn't show the impact 41 homes would have," said Joe Marencik, project coordinator. "We're providing guidance, input and advice. Most of the supplies, if they participate, are pretty cheap."
Letters with pre-addressed stamped postcards last week invited residents in homes bordered by Lake and West streets, Lange Court and Cook Avenue to participate and included pre-addressed stamped postcards.
"Did you know that stormwater runoff from your property ends up in Butler Lake, Bull Creek and the Des Plaines River?" residents were asked.
Overall, a typical 1-inch rain generates 57,880 gallons of stormwater runoff from those homes, residents were told. That amounts to more than 2 million gallons in a typical year or the equivalent of filling a football field six feet deep.
How to change that? The answer can be as simple as redirecting downspouts away from driveways, walkways or sidewalks and onto lawns or landscaped areas. Downspouts with direct storm sewer tie-ins can be disconnected and the water allowed to soak into the ground, and rain barrels and rain gardens can be used to capture and use the runoff.
"It's nothing overly complex," Marencik said.
As an incentive, the local Ace Hardware will offer 20 percent off supplies needed to retrofit downspouts.
A workshop will be held if there is enough interest and the program could be expanded.
"It's kind of a showcase for us if it works well," Marencik said.