S.O.S: Save Our Swales

Sreeja Kalagotla
July 20, 2021

Water logging on roads in monsoon and dried up borewells is a common scene in our cities. With the water crisis becoming one of the major global crises, at a fast pace, it has become the need of the hour to incorporate water conservation techniques at a global level as well as individual level. More importantly, these issues are directly affecting our lives on a regular basis. 

Many communities and localities have become aware of the necessity of responsible consumption and conservation of natural resources. Communities have started adopting rainwater conservation, and wastewater recycling technologies, however, this is not enough due to the vast abundance of concrete surfaces which block the earth’s surface from allowing rainwater to reach the groundwater table.

The increase in population results in an increase in demand and limitations in supply. This is leading to the rapid depletion of groundwater and natural reservoirs. On the other hand, the precious rainwater is diverted into drainage systems along with wastewater. This precious natural resource is highly underutilized.

There are methods available to replenish the groundwater tables and natural water storage systems like groundwater tables, ponds and lakes. These methods are collectively known as Sustainable Drainage Systems.

What are SUDs?

Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDs) are a variety of Water Management Techniques that are incorporated to align man-made drainage systems (methods to drain or soak water falling on the ground) to go hand-in-hand natural water systems. SUDs manage the water flows, water runoffs and groundwater volumes along with other biodiversity benefits.

What are Swales?

One of the components of SUDs is swales. Swales are shallow, broad channels with vegetation grown on them, designed to store and/or carry the runoff water and filter out the pollutants. They are passage structures designed to promote infiltration of surface water where soil and groundwater conditions allow. After infiltration, they pass the runoff water to the next stage of water treatment.

Above: Image of a swale at Organo Naandi

Where can Swales be constructed?

Swales can be built in the residential landscape. They can be integrated into the surrounding area like public open space or road verges. They can also be built in independent backyards. Local wild grass and flower species can be introduced not only for visual interest but also to welcome the biodiversity of insects and birds into our surroundings.

Benefits of Swales

Swales help in removing the pollutants and suspended solids accumulated in the surface water through filtration and sedimentation into the ground/soil. They play a major role in Flood risk Management by controlling the flow of excess water. They also act as a Rainwater Harvesting system and help in improving the groundwater quantity and quality. Acting as a water quality management design, they improve the surface water levels and quality of the property. Swales increase the ecological value of the site by attracting a variety of biodiversity to the plantation grown on the channels.

Advantages of Swales
  • Easy to incorporate into landscaping
  • Good removal of urban pollutants
  • Reduces runoff rates and volumes
  • Low capital cost
  • Maintenance can be incorporated into general landscape management
  • Pollution and blockages are visible and easily dealt with.

Incorporation of these Sustainable Drainage Systems into any available open spaces in and around your community can make a big difference in improving the water resources of your area. It is a small step of one-time investment towards our water conservation. Let’s build swales and Save Our Swales!

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