Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mind the Swale

Swale: A drainage swale is a shaped and sloped depression in the soil surface used to convey runoff to a desired location. (like the neighbor directly behind you!)

from the California Stormwater BMP Handbook

It’s been raining in Atlanta, as you might have heard. Where I come from in California 12 inches in an entire year is considered a really good, wet, year. 12 inches in one flippen day is astonishing and that’s what we’ve been dealing with. I used to be in love with rain. Now I‘d like a trial separation.

Most builders with any sense at all design a building that is low-lying to have a swale around one side or the other. This is because when your foundation sits on the ground without a crawl space you can be flooded unless you tell the water where to go. I know about these things because I am

A) the step-daughter of a builder and

B) Remember all those crazy occupations I’ve had!

So, I knew we had a nice little swale going around our outbuilding, however, the past few years we’ve been in a drought and we’ve been crazy people due to – life. So my nice little swale designed by some builder 100 years ago filled with rocks, vines, dirt, dog poop. And I never even noticed.

Luckily, my house sits way up high on a nice tall foundation. Not so luckily, my studio is in an outbuilding that sits plumb on the ground with a concrete foundation. You see the problem?

One Day+12 inches of rain+unminded swale+on slab building = FLOODED OUT.

As I was out in the pounding rain, soaking wet, shovel in hand digging out my swale, it occurred to me (yes, in between all the F-this-God-Damn-Rain thoughts) that this swale is a perfect metaphor. If you don’t stop to tell the water where to go – and we all have water in our lives – if you let the swale that can carry the flood away fill with crap– you are going to experience a life filled with muddy and stinky water.

So, I have one question for you: What is your personal swale and are you minding it?

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