Everyone needs a rain barrel. Don’t they?
Some folks would have us think so. But during periods of frequent, heavy rain and thunderstorms, people don’t think about watering their gardens. The big blue containers fill to the top and overflow right next to the home’s foundation.
Water ecology is one of the most under-estimated factors in managing a home’s healthiness – especially in the mountains, where slope matters. In the lower Appalachians, I’ve seen all kinds of things. One centuries old cabin with a mold problem had a well right off the back corner of the house, while another was built so the stream would run right under the house. The family would just go down to the humid, musty basement to fill their water bucket. A more modern home was nestled beautifully into the landscape, right at the bottom of a watershed in the middle of a basin. Think the crawl space is always damp? You’d be right.
Examples like these are a drop in the bucket. Every leaky basement is the result of someone not going outside and addressing water management issues. The results are rotting wood, mold growth, odors, a decrease in home healthiness and value.
Environmental examinations frequently include water quality testing, particularly when well water and septic systems are concerns. But the way water impacts a house where it stands may be overlooked. Whether we are country or city dwellers, water management means we must consider every source of water running toward your house. Managing water starts outside, where you live right now.
- When it rains, where does surface or ground water go? How about water from the street?
- Take a look at your neighbors’ downspouts; where does that water go?
- Look at the location, its relationship to slope, vegetation, and soil. What do you see?
- Take a deep breath. Does anything smell “off?” There could be a wastewater issue. Check with the State Environmental Protection Agency for information.
- Every building or paving project changes the watershed and storm water management; are new homes, developments, or roads located near you?
- Check erosion of landscaping elements or paving due to weather. Note and maintain places rainwater gets in.
- If a residence you hope to purchase is near a stream of any size, make certain you check the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, flood maps, in your county planning office.
- Planning to buy or build? Go hang out when it’s raining to check out how the water drains.
- Steep slopes of 12% or greater are at particular risk of erosion around any house. Look for signs of mud or rock slides.
- Sinkholes actually occur in the lower Appalachians, particularly in places where erosion is caused by a high water table. If you suspect underground erosion, the Natural Resources Conservation Service provides county soil surveys with depth to water tables to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- Regionally, we also have our share of underground mines, abandoned wells, and forgotten tanks buried beneath the surface. These anomalies also affect the water ecology of a property.
Water management is founded on common sense, but correcting your home’s water ecology is something of a science.