Lot saves water

Article Published: Nov. 11, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Lot saves water

Construction crews finish work last month on a unique drainage system at Casey and Casey Law Firm in downtown Boone.

Photo by Lauren K. Ohnesorge

The bricked area near Casey and Casey Law Firm isn't just for aesthetics. Its designers call it a revolutionary way to improve safety and efficiency.

With a roof system designed to drain water into a rain garden and plants in place to control erosion, it might look like systems you've seen before. Add in the alternating tiles over layers of gravel, and you've got what could be a revolution.

Water doesn't collect in pools rushing into the nearby stream. It filters through the layers of gravel before it ever hits the water source, and measuring devices are in place to record exactly how successful the system is at reducing water runoff.

While it may not sound like something to jump up and down about, its organizers think it could change the way the state thinks about water drainage. Just as N.C. Cooperative Extension associate Ryan Winston, who helped design the system.

"Basically, it's designed to retain water," he said, kneeling and pointing at the spot between the bricks. "The bricks themselves are not permeable, but these spaces are."

The water goes through the spaces and into three layers of gravel. So far, testing shows the system reduces run off by 97 percent.

While the system has been implemented in eastern North Carolina, it's unknown whether the slopes and colder climate of the High Country will make a difference. That's where this space comes in and why town officials gathered at the lot last month.

"It's a parking lot party," said Wendy Patoprsty, N.C. Cooperative Extension agent.

"They've been giving me the scoop," Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson said. "It looks like it's going to take care of the water, and that's what we like."

And it's not just about helping the High Country. If the system is proven to work at this elevation, tax credits for using the system, already in place in eastern North Carolina, could move statewide. Since the new system costs $10 per square foot, compared to $3 the traditional way, the incentives could make a huge difference.

A grant from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund provided the bulk of the funding for this process.

Attorney Scott Casey was excited at the prospect of utilizing the new technology at his business and is already looking ahead toward possible implications.

"Imagine this works and a new Walmart has to repave," he said. "They don't have to buy extra real estate to bury tanks."

Instead, they could utilize the new system. There are a few kinks, however.

In addition to the added cost, to make the lot car-safe, several more layers of gravel would have to be implemented.

"We're not there yet," Winston said.

Casey said it's not just about the environment.

Earlier this year, when a child drowned after being swept away in a culvert, he started to think about ways tragedy could be prevented.

"If everyone did this," he said, "think about how much water we could keep out of our stream."
To check out the project, visit the bricked lot next to Casey and Casey at 891 W. King St. in downtown Boone.

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