DROPS Sinkin' the Stormwater in Humboldt County
Stormwater is a significant source of pollution to our watersheds. As it flows from rooftops and over impermeable surfaces, it collects oil and grease, cigarette butts, trash, animal waste, fertilizers, pesticides and other potential pollutants before entering storm drains and discharging directly into local rivers and Humboldt Bay. Sinkin’ the Stormwater in Humboldt County, part of the State Water Resource Control Board's Drought Response Outreach Program for Schools (DROPS), is helping address this threat to watershed health.
Sinkin’ the Stormwater is the result of a collaborative partnership between RCAA and the Northern Humboldt Union High School District (NHUHSD), with engineering and technical design by GHD. Project objectives were to reduce stormwater runoff, mitigate pollution and increase infiltration through the installation of rain gardens, bio swales and rain barrels at three Humboldt County schools: Arcata High, Alice Birney Elementary and South Fortuna Elementary. Construction took place over the summer of 2018, and rain gardens were vegetated with native plants – such as shore pine, vine maple, toyon, sword fern, huckleberry, woodland strawberry and salal – fall 2018 with the help of students. These Low Impact Design (LID) features increase the amount of permeable surfaces and capture runoff from school parking lots, rooftops and paved playground areas.
In addition to the construction of LID projects, Sinkin’ the Stormwater has a robust educational component, which includes Lafayette Elementary along with the other three schools, that consists primarily of a stormwater and LID curriculum. These lessons aim to increase understanding of what stormwater is and why we should care, to encourage students to think creatively about stormwater and improving infiltration on their school campuses, and to increase place-based ecological knowledge and environmental literacy.