If They Called Wetlands Something Else, We’d Have a Lot More of Them

Wetlands are a natural solution to a natural problem: flooding. Problem is, their name sounds like it’s the opposite – more of a problem than a solution.

  • Wetlands? Get out the mop.
  • Wetlands? Will I need galoshes?
  • Wetlands? Just pave it.
  • Wetlands? We can’t have that.

See what I mean? If we named them something else, something that had a benefit, maybe they would stand a fighting chance against bulldozers. For example:

  • Flood-Prevention Lands? I’ll fight for that.
  • Flood Buffer? Give me an extra one of those.
  • Safety Shield? Don’t lose that.
  • Guardlands? Better than free insurance!

Wetlands detain water during heavy rains. They let it flow away gradually at a rate that streams and bayous can handle naturally.

Visual Comparison

Here’s a visual example. We had heavy rains the night before I took this shot – almost four inches. When I went to East End Park the next morning, I saw the wetlands at the end of the main entry trail filled with water. There’s a natural, little bowl in the landscape there that covers a couple acres. After a very heavy rain, it usually takes a week or two for the water to drain away.

After heavy rains, the bowl fills up. Then the water trickles away, evaporates, gets sucked up by trees, or percolates through the ground to the river.
OK, so sometimes it moves faster than a trickle. But this is still much slower than if two-acre feet suddenly hit concrete and a storm drain.

Contrast that with runoff coming out of the clearcut Woodridge Village below.

Developer filled in natural creeks and wetlands on this property without constructing required detention ponds first. Elm Grove is behind the trees to the left, where hundreds of homes flooded on May 7.

Why Wetlands are So Important

Watch this video taken from the porch of a house out of frame on the left of this shot. The home had never flooded before this area was clearcut and the natural drainage features were filled in. Notice a difference in the volume, clarity, and runoff rates of the water? Shortly after the rain started Tuesday, May 7, a lot of the water that hit this property filled the living rooms of Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest residents.

Abel Vera, who lives next to this recently denuded area, told me how his kids used to play in the woods and creeks that covered the wetlands to his north.

Sadly, it will be a few decades, if ever, before more kids have that opportunity again. If only we had named the wetlands on this property something else. Protector Ponds? Storm Shields? Heck, even Gator Haven would have worked. Developers could have sold tickets.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/7/2019

647 Days since Hurricane Harvey