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Bioretention Systems: What are they?

11 April 2017

Many definitions of civil engineering work exist. Principally, this is a diverse discipline, a means of using the tools we have at hand to improve societal enclaves. We design and build amazing structures to accommodate these infrastructural alterations. Excitingly, the work also incorporates living and breathing systems, bio-assets that improve and extend those habitats. Built to blend seamlessly into a societal foundation, Bioretention systems represent a key example of this principle.

What is a Bioretention System?

Instead of fighting nature, supplanting its presence, civil engineers choose to work with our landscape. This choice is made because our local scenery isn’t there simply to look appealing. Nature, the hills and grasslands that surround us, also functions as a working system. We can illustrate that point by talking about Bioretention systems. In essence, this is an organic filter. Let’s see how this naturally landscaped asset processes stormwater and its contaminants.

Built from Organic Stratum

It’s difficult to pick out a Bioretention mechanism if we don’t know where it is, and it is one of the main features of this elemental filter. It’s a collection of wetland grasses and loose sand, mulch and pond plants, all grown together within a land depression. The stormwater enters the local landscape as a torrent, but its many rivulets are channelled into the depressions, where they’re sieved by the buffering plant life. Then, when the water has passed through the greenery-filled crater, the contaminants are gone, left behind so that the runoff is clean. Happily, this clean water returns to the local water table, freshened and potable.

Biosystem Benefits

As this native agrarian flora is classed as a part of the landscape, its benefits are biased towards the environment. Soil erosion is minimised as the root system grows in this natural filtration structure. The system also acts as a natural habitat for wetland wildlife. Granted, the sieving process is passive, perhaps even sluggish, but it’s a natural part of the landscape, so the local climate is reinforced by the ebb and flow of the stormwater drainage. Essentially, land development impact is minimised because this is an intrinsically natural method of engineering the land.

A series of Bioretention systems functions as a wholesale area filtration solution, a natural method of sieving stormwater. Sediments and water contaminants are left behind in the grass and mulch occupied ground depressions when the process is concluded, which leaves the filtered water fresh and free to return to the ground.

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