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Reducing the Impact of your Driveway

EarthWizards.com

Most homes have driveways. We use driveways for vehicle storage and to provide access to our homes and garages from the street. We use driveway surfaces that are sturdy enough to hold the weight of automobiles, to tolerate freezing weather and summer heat, and to stand up to snow removal.

Most driveways are made from asphalt, concrete, paving stones, or gravel. All of these are considered “impermeable” surfaces because they do not allow water to pass through them. That’s right-standard pavers and standard gravel are not permeable. Rain that falls on an impermeable driveway runs off the surface and often into a local lake or stream. Runoff from driveways harms our lakes and streams in three ways:

  1. More hard surface means more storm water running off into lakes and streams.
  2. Water running off hard surfaces is warmer than ordinary rainwater, and increased water temperature harms aquatic habitat.
  3. Runoff carries salt, silt, pet waste, grass clippings and other pollutants into receiving water bodies.

Fortunately, homeowners have a range of options available for reducing the impact of hard surfaces.

First, maintain what you have. Existing hard surfaces should be kept clean of grass clippings, pet waste, dirt, and other pollutants. Cracks should be repaired.

Second, reduce your total area of hard surface. Think about how much driveway you really need-maybe you can get by with less. Consider a smaller driveway or parking “strips” rather than a fully-paved driveway.

Third, keep your runoff on-site. If you’re installing a new driveway, design it so that runoff can be captured in your yard or in a rain garden. Even an existing driveway can be improved with a trench drain or other strategies to direct runoff where it can be managed on-site.

Finally, you can use permeable surfaces. A permeable surface allows water to pass through it and to seep into the soil below rather than running off. Asphalt, concrete, paving stones and gravel driveways can be installed in ways that allow water to run through. The entire surface need not be permeable in order to make a difference-even just a strip of permeable paving can capture a significant volume of runoff.

Some of these strategies are more expensive than others, but budget need not be a reason to keep homeowners from reducing the impact of driveways on our local waterways.

Read Up

Making Paths and Driveways, by Claude H. Miller, Kessinger Publishing, 2007.

The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture, by Alanna Stang and Christopher Hawthorne, Princeton Architectural Press, 2005.

 

Act Locally
Earthwizards, Inc.—earthwise contracting and design
Minneapolis, MN
763-784-3833
earthwizards.com

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency,
pca.state.mn.us/sustainability

Your Watershed District,
mnwatershed.govoffice.com

True Story of a Green Driveway Transformation,
frankejames.com/debate/?p=98

Read Up!

Making Paths and Driveways, by Claude H. Miller, Kessinger Publishing, 2007.

The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture, by Alanna Stang and Christopher Hawthorne, Princeton Architectural Press, 2005.

Act Locally!

Earthwizards, Inc.—
earthwise contracting and design
Minneapolis, MN
763-784-3833
earthwizards.com

Your Driveway

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