Bioswale: A Solution to Pollution?

Many cities around the world are beginning to recognize the need and importance of creating and maintaining both a sustainable and eco-friendly environment. Living in an urban landscape where businesses, residential homes, schools, churches, and commuters, share the same road, it is important to know the effect it is having on our environment. With so many cars commuting to and from the city, there are large amounts of car oil and other car chemicals slipping into our storm water drains. Also, consider the use of household chemicals being used on a day-to-day base, some of these chemicals may include: lawn pesticides, cleaning solutions, paints, and much more. When it rains, all of these chemicals are washed away to different places and can be or is detrimental to the environment it reaches, this is known as storm water runoff or surface runoff.  Surface runoff causes degraded soil, speeds the erosion process, and affects ocean life, ultimately affecting the overall health of our cities and our individual well-being.


So what is being done?

Check out this short video by PBS News Hour:


A bioswale is relatively new concept and tool that cities around the world are beginning to utilize in their urban landscapes to help absorb and reduce surface runoff. Some common applications of bioswales are found in: parking lots, residential roadsides, highway medians, and other landscape structures. Some cities are even using them as alternatives to storm water drains. Bioswales incorporate the use of plant material, mulch, blended sand, rocks, and other like material. According to, plants native to the city will maximize the benefits of the bioswales.

Here are some of the many benefits of bioswales:
  •       They help remove and filter pollutants
  •       Reduce amount of storm water runoff
  •       Removes nitrogen and phosphorus 
  •       Increase infiltration
  •       Aesthetically appealing to the urban landscape
  •     Improved biodiversity (variety of plant species) 

Did you know that Portland, Oregon is home to over 1,000 bioswales? Check out this article by Portland Business Journal: World cities looking to Portland for Green Street ides (Photos)

As a part of the urban naturalization processes, these bioswales require routine maintenance, trimming of incorporated plants, and the removal of debris & trash. As they are a fairly new project, more research and studies will need to be conducted in order to maximize the bioswale potential.

Check out these other articles for more information:

Engineering Greener Development: Bioswales to Bioretention