In school, we learned about the water cycle. Here in the Miami Valley, the water cycle includes water soaking into the ground and feeding the world’s largest accessible freshwater aquifer called the Buried Valley Aquifer. This massive underground body of water provides us with our drinking water and supports our economy by providing the water supply that businesses need. Ephemeral streams are a critical part of the recharge of the aquifer. These streams are dry most of the time except after a rainfall. In healthy landscapes, ephemeral streams collect the first water runoff in a manner that regulates how fast water enters creeks and rivers, prevents erosion and gives the water another significant chance to be absorbed by the soil in the dry stream channel. These ephemeral streams eventually become creeks, then rivers and, in our case, the Gulf of Mexico. The larger the body of water, the less soil surface comes in contact with the water and less can soak into the ground to refill the aquifer. The health of our only water source relies on making sure that enough clean water does not run off but can get back into the aquifer so that we can ensure future generations have this critical resource to make the Miami Valley thrive.
As we develop natural areas and farm fields with rooftops, driveways, parking lots and roads, we put the water that normally comes in contact with the soil or ephemeral streams into pipes and then directly into creeks or rivers, greatly reducing the opportunity for rain to complete the water cycle. When more areas are covered with impenetrable surfaces that don’t allow water to come into contact with soil, the results include flooding and the destruction of our streams, which were never intended to handle these frequent and longer peak flows produced by engineered stormwater systems.