Throughout the past 10 years, partners across the region have welcomed Depave into their vibrant communities with open arms. We at Depave are incredibly thankful for these opportunities to bring people together and transform lifeless places into community greenspaces through collaboration, hard work, and unity.
Our work would not be possible without our community partners, who represent many kinds of diversity — socioeconomic status, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, religion, race, ethnicity — and are woven together by the desire to make our world more green, livable, and resilient to the impacts of climate change and blight. Therefore, we stand against executive orders that close our borders to refugees and immigrants from ANY country, and irrational governance that harms the integrity of the scientific community and the dignity of the world’s citizens.
To our partners – past, present and future – who are impacted by recent events, know that we stand (and march) with you for the ideals our country was founded on. May our neighborhoods, and our country once again, be a beacon of hope for those who need us the most.
I won’t go as far to say that becoming a crew leader was the single most defining event of my life, but it is definitely in the top 5. All jokes aside, joining Depave is a worthwhile adventure that will bring a lifetime of fond memories. We are a close-knit group that strives to make Portland a better place. We team up with other likeminded organizations to convert paved spaces in schools, churches, and community centers into beautiful greenspaces. However, this would not be possible without a dedicated group of crew leaders that ensure that everyone is having a safe and fun time.
Snazzy neon comes with great responsibility.
Being a crew leader means you get to wear a snazzy yellow vest. However, with snazzy vest comes great responsibility. As a crew leader, your number one responsibility is to keep everyone safe. We do this by educating and supervising volunteers on the proper ways to Depave. Pry bars, shovels, and wheelbarrows are loads of fun, but they can be dangerous when handled improperly. Your other responsibility is to engage with community members that volunteer at our events. Through us, they learn how greenspaces can benefit their community, and maybe it will embolden them to create a plan that will improve the aesthetics of one of their shared spaces.
I got involved with Depave through a friend that thought this organization would be a good fit for me. They were right. And as an environmental major Depave has helped me to gain a better understanding that urban restoration and community outreach go hand in hand. However, that is just my experience.
Our desire to make this city of ours a better place brings us together.
Our crew leaders come from all backgrounds and occupations. The one thing that brings us together is our desire to make this city of ours a better place. You too, can helps by becoming a crew leader yourself. All it requires is a Saturday afternoon, and a willingness to get your hands dirty.
Portlanders love their gardens. But have you ever stopped to consider how much water your garden consumes? Our abundant fall-winter-spring rainfall comes out of sync with the summer garden irrigation season. Peak water use by City of Portland residential customers is in July through September when water use increases by 30-50% to feed those thirsty veggies, fruit trees/shrubs, and lawns. Even a small bed of veggies and a few fruit trees can consume 5,000 gallons of water over one irrigation season. That is a lot of pristine Bull Run drinking water!
Peak water use by City of Portland residential customers is in July through September when water use increases by 30-50%
That’s one reason why Depave promotes naturescaping, integrated with thoughtful rainwater harvesting techniques (like rain gardens), at our project sites. Native plants are adapted to our climate and can thrive without supplemental irrigation. Using mulch and soil amendments we can boost water storage in our soils, which is the cheapest and most effective place to store all that rain – for the benefit of our plants and everything else downstream.
But many of us love our home-grown veggies and fruit and we know they need summer irrigation to thrive. Portlanders with green thumbs often jump to rainwater catchment and storage in tanks as the fix for their garden irrigation needs. But it can be tough to find space to store all the water you need for a whole season of garden irrigation. Large tanks also can be cost-prohibitive and unsightly.
What if you could get a second use from the water draining your shower, sink, and clothes washer and use it in your yard? You can. It is called GREYWATER. And since 2011 it has been legal in Oregon to use your own greywater, if you follow some simple procedures.
Used wisely, greywater is safe for you and your plants. During the summer you redirect greywater to your yard. In the wet season you shut off your system and send all wastewater to the sewer.
But won’t the soapy wastewater hurt my plants? Nope. You must switch your clothes washer and dish soaps over to plant-friendly ones (those without salts, boron, or bleach), but there are a variety of good ones to choose from. Regular body soaps are fine. The only no-no is dishwasher effluent, since there are no boron/salt-free soap options. The other stuff in your wastewater is actually beneficial for your plants.
You can’t use the water from your toilet (that is “blackwater”), or store your greywater for more than 24 hours – it will stink! All greywater systems need some basic periodic maintenance. So it isn’t right for everyone (and every site). You need to consider the site, the users, and plant needs.
Greywater isn’t a panacea, but it is a compelling part of a well-rounded water conservation and (re)use strategy, that includes water-efficient appliances, drip irrigation, rainwater catchment, naturescaping, human behavior changes, and more.
Greywater is being designed into new construction in drought-stricken regions across the world. But there are affordable DIY retrofit systems that you can implement at home with a minimal investment of time and resources. One of the simplest is the laundry-to-landscape (L2L) system and uses the pump in your clothes washer to deliver wastewater to your plants. A ‘branched drain’ system uses just gravity and pipes (no pumps or other moving parts) to water your thirsty fruit trees. There are also more elaborate designs with pumps and filters that cost more and can require more maintenance.
These low-tech systems are not good for lawn or low-growing food plants that could potentially contact the ground (ex. strawberries). But they are perfect for fruit trees, berry bushes, upright veggies (tomatoes, broccoli), and more.
The first step is to assess your home water use, and implement water conservation measures like low-flow faucets and showerheads. (Plus maybe replace that old water-hog of a clothes washer?) Then design your system to match your plant’s water needs with the knowledge of your greywater flow and site constraints. There are lots of tips and tricks to learn about and some of the best greywater resources are listed below.
After you assess your water use and yard, implement water conservation measures, and design your greywater system, you need to get a permit from Oregon DEQ here. For any home-interior plumbing work you may also need a permit from your City building department. Then you are ready to build!
At this stage you may be thinking: “Great! Who can I hire to help me design and build my system?” Unfortunately, right now there are not many seasoned residential greywater system installers in Oregon and even with the recent drought there have been few systems permitted. This is one reason why Depave is helping host informational and how-to workshops: to build a local community of greywater practitioners, proponents, and resources for those interested.
Depave is helping host informational and how-to workshops: to build a local community of greywater practitioners
We think greywater is perfect for Portlanders with green thumbs. It is good for our pocket books, our plants, and the planet. It can help close the loop on our wasteful residential water use patterns. Folks that implement greywater systems begin to carefully scrutinize their soaps and are less prone to simply dump random stuff down their drain.
Depave is so excited about the possibilities for greywater in Portland (and the synergism with our work-to-date) that we hosted two workshops in August 2016 introducing greywater residential reuse and the DIY retrofit systems mentioned above. The workshops were taught by Laura Allen, author of The Water-Wise Home and a co-founder of Greywater Action). To host these workshops we partnered with Greywater Action, Recode, Oregon Tradeswomen, and East Multnomah SWCD. The workshops were a great success and we are contemplating more in 2017. Tell us about your interest in follow up greywater workshops here.
Greywater Action’s website is a great place to start learning about greywater and DIY home systems. A co-founder of Greywater Action, Laura Allen, has a great book with more details, tips and tricks if you want to learn more: The Water Wise Home is available from the Multnomah Co Library or Powell’s Books. This is our favorite book on greywater – it is the easiest to understand and use.
Get local (Portland metro region) info on water saving tips, learn about rebates, and find out where your water comes from through the Regional Water Providers Consortium.
Brad Lancaster’s comprehensive water harvesting website has lots of info, links, and photos on greywater systems here.
Art Ludwig, the creator of the original L2L and branched drain designs has a great website on greywater do’s and don’ts here. He also has a book: The New Create an Oasis with Greywater available from Multnomah Co Library and Powell’s Books.
5 Tips for Effective Rainwater Harvesting in Portland
Portland averages around 37” of rain each year, mostly coming in the late fall, winter and spring. Ever consider catching some of that rain and saving it for later use? Rain barrels can be a great way to harvest some of Portland’s bounty for summer irrigation or use during an emergency situation. In fact, because most of Portland’s drizzle comes during the months when we don’t need it for watering veggies and flower pots, capturing rainwater for use in an emergency situation could be the primary reason for installing a rain barrel in the Pacific Northwest.
Tip 1: Go Big or Go Home
Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to capture enough water to make a dent in irrigation during the dry summer months. It can definitely help in kicking off the growing season, but past that first week or so, you will likely be dragging out the garden hose. If you are considering a rain barrel for irrigation purposes, consider installing more than one 55 gallon barrel. A series of rain barrels or a larger cistern can do the trick–especially given a summer shower or two to recharge the system. In an emergency situation however, even one barrel could make a huge impact by providing a source of water to get you through.
Tip 2: Rock the Overflow
Given that 1,000 square feet of roof will generate over 22,000 gallons of water in a typical rain year (in Portland), the overflow is the most crucial element of a catchment system. In other words, your barrels or cistern is bound to fill, most likely in the first rain event of the year. After that, it’s overflowing until the natural spigot turns off. So as a stand-alone stormwater management tool, it just is not that effective. This is why it is critical to design your system with an adequate overflow. The typical garden hose overflow can be prone to clogging or freezing during the winter, and is usually only 1/2” in diameter at most. Depending on the area of roof that is flowing to a barrel, this could prove to be inadequate in a heavy rain event. The overflow should be sized at least 2” in diameter and directed to flow back into the downspout stand pipe or another safe disposal location, such as a rain garden, where it can soak back into the ground.
Tip 3: Quality Counts
There are several common pitfalls to avoid when installing a rain barrel system. Starting out right and taking your time with installation and fittings will pay off in the long run. Since rain barrels are typically installed in-line with an existing downspout, it lives right next to the foundation of your home. Any clogs or leaky connections can cause stormwater to drain into a basement window well or into a crawl space, certainly areas we don’t want water. Setting your rain barrel or cistern on a sound, level surface and strapping it in place will help prevent any unforeseen safety issues, and increase the likelihood that, in the event of an emergency such as an earthquake, you will still have your emergency water supply to tap into.
Tip 4: Be Prepared
If you are considering a rain barrel as a backup water supply, keep the following in mind. Filtering, boiling or other purification will be needed, so have a plan of attack on how to make your rainwater potable. Water in a rain barrel or cistern can get stagnant or grow algae over the summer months, so a periodic flushing will be required. This is the perfect excuse to drain your barrel on your garden. Refilling the barrel with water you would have used on the garden will ensure it is ready to go in case of emergency.
Tip 5: Check and recheck
Rainwater harvesting systems are an active system that needs regular maintenance. Be sure you are checking your system for debris, clogs and leaks throughout the year. Leaf screens and other “first flush” devices can help prevent clogs and debris from causing issues with your rain barrel plumbing, but even these devices need regular checks and maintenance. Schedule inspections of your rainwater catchment systems with other household chores such as garbage night. This will protect your investment and ensure that your catchment system is a great amenity, and not a nuisance.
The City of Portland has a great Rain Barrel How to Guide that I would encourage you to read. It is a step by step guide that goes into significantly greater depth and delves into the fine nuances of rain barrel installation and maintenance. Rain barrels are just the tip of the iceberg, perhaps a rain garden is also in your future? For more information on stormwater management including the rain barrel guide, visit the technical assistance page of the Clean River Rewards website.
What do Human Solutions and Depave have in common? Oddly enough, a vegan strip club. In 2015, Human Solutions acquired property that previously served as a strip club and transformed it into the East Portland Family Center: a family homeless shelter serving 130 adults and children daily. This Saturday, six months after the center’s grand opening, volunteers will depave the parking lot and assist in the creation of greenspace that will serve patrons and their families. The potential of 5,000 square feet of pavement will be realized in the form of a children’s play area, a rain garden, raised garden beds, as well as other greenspace features. We’re overjoyed to work with Human Solutions, an organization that has a legacy of collaboration and partnerships across Portland.
The potential of 5,000 square feet of pavement will be realized in the form of a children’s play area, a rain garden, raised garden beds, as well as other greenspace features.
In 2014 alone, Human Solutions served over 90,000 individuals in Multnomah County. Its innovative approach to alleviating the conditions of poverty is based on a holistic view of stability – a foundation that is reflected in its wide array of services. While it began as an organization that provided low-income households with home weatherization and utility assistance, Human Solutions has greatly expanded its services, and done so in a way that maintains a strong situational awareness of the volatile conditions in which the people it serves live. Focus is placed on two main issue areas (housing and employment), with the appreciation of these factors’ interdependence and role in maintaining family stability. However, within these two issue areas exists a network of services that create a safety net for families.
Take housing insecurity, for example:
Emergency shelters, such as the East Portland Family Center, serve families in crisis. From there, Family Advocates from the Homeless Families Program ensure that families are placed in safe and affordable housing. If families already have access to this, eviction protection and utility assistance programs help them stay there. Lastly, Human Solutions invests in developing permanent affordable rental housing – a crucial role as Portland’s housing market continues to displace families across the county.
The organization’s employment programs are also robust, and focus not only on finding residents jobs, but helping them obtain living wage employment. Through CommunityWorks, Human Solutions partners with various community-based organizations to create a culturally-specific approach that transitions families off TANF, and into the workforce. These organizations, such as the International Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), and the Urban League, allow Human Solutions access to a new set of clients, many of whom would not have engaged if it weren’t for pre-existing relationships within their cultural groups.
Human Solutions’ outstanding achievements have been nationally recognized. In 2012, it received an Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award from the National Community Development Association for “exemplary use of Community Development Block Grant funds which address the needs of families, homes and neighborhoods” in its Rockwood Building.
We hope that you recognize the positive impact Human Solutions has on our community, and will come out support them as a Depave volunteer on July 30th.
Help us to, as Andy Miller (Human Solutions Executive Director) said, “convert vice to nice,” and strip this parking lot of pavement!
Frequent water quality tests reveal that the answer is yes. Bacteria levels are consistently well below safety standards, so swimming in the Willamette will not make you sick. Get the latest test results.
Things have changed
Several years ago, the Willamette River was not safe for swimming. Raw sewage flowed into the river during rainstorms about 50 times each year in “Combined Sewer Overflows” (CSOs). In older Portland neighborhoods, the rainfall that runs off rooftops, roads and driveways and into a storm grate is combined in the same pipes with sewage from toilets and sinks. The pipes used to be too small, so when it rained the mixture of sewage and stormwater would overflow into the river. Find out which neighborhoods have combined sewer pipes.
The Big Pipe
In 2011, Portland completed construction of “The Big Pipe” project. The largest of the big pipes is 22 feet in diameter and six miles long. That can hold a lot of water! Today, sewage overflows happen only in very intense rainstorms — about four times each winter, and roughly once every three years in the summer. The Big Pipe was the largest public works construction project in Portland’s history, and we are paying for it in our sewer/water bills. That is the price of making the Willamette safe to swim in.
What about the Superfund site?
The Superfund site is in the most industrialized part of the Portland Harbor, from the Fremont Bridge to Sauvie Island, which is all downstream of the downtown waterfront. The contamination is in sediments on the river bottom and in resident fish. The most dangerous thing about the Superfund site is eating fish such as bass, catfish and carp that spend their whole lives in the harbor. Salmon are safer to eat, since they spend most of their lives in the ocean. EPA’s proposed cleanup plan is open for public comments until September 2016.
The pipe’s not getting any bigger
If we want to keep sewer overflows from happening more often, we have to keep stormwater out of the pipe system. That’s where depaving comes in. Replacing pavement with soil and plants helps rainwater percolate into the ground naturally, replenishing aquifers. And depaving keeps rainwater out of the piped system, reducing the risk of sewage overflows during rainstorms. The next time you’re tearing up asphalt at a depave, remember that you’re helping to make the Willamette River safer to swim in!
The Big Float happens this Sunday, July 10th. Get your pass and grab your water wings to join in.