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Turning Sump Pump Water into a Thriving Ecosystem: How I Invited Nature into My Backyard

Ever thought your sump pump could be a gateway to a hidden world? Neither did I! When faced with an ever-active sump pump due to a high water table under our house, we decided to lay underground drainpipes to channel the water into a corner of the backyard, not knowing that we were about to unlock a treasure trove of nature.


Creating a Mini-Wetland with Sump Pump Water Runoff

For two years after laying the drain pipe, the water from the sump pump did nothing more than create a soggy grass area in the corner of my yard that was not providing much benefit to anything other than keeping the over saturated land further away from the house. This summer, however, all that changed. I had found a black willow tree next to a creek on a walk in early spring and took a few clippings from it to propagate to see if I could plant it in that back corner. Since black willows require lots of water, after rooting the clippings, I did a little experiment and dug a small hole near the end of the drainage pipe for the water to pool and tried to put the constant water source to good use. I placed the willows in pots and set them in the newly formed puddle.


Welcoming Wildlife

What happened next was beyond my wildest imagination. Not only are my black willow clippings doing well, but my little water puddle has turned into a haven for wildlife. A curious turtle, a hopping frog, a pesky wabbit, and a medley of birds turned this tiny corner into a sanctuary. Here’s a glimpse into the process and my backyard’s unexpected guests! It was amazing to see how a simple and seemingly insignificant water outlet could transform into a flourishing ecosystem, supporting biodiversity.


Photos


As it was. The corner of the yard in question. Deer-eaten arborvitae and turf grass. Goal: reforest 50%+ of the entire yard.
As it is: 6/23. Plums/Apples/Pawpaws, spicebush, buttonbush, swamp white oak, compost bin, new tiny "pond" to the right of the compost. Still grass, but we're working on it!
Mid-May 2023: freshly dug hole for black willow plants.
2 weeks later. Horrible quality shot, but I didn't want to disturb our new turtle visitor, so left it alone.
Frog!!

The Bigger Picture

While just a tiny puddle in my yard, you can see the impact it is having in just a few weeks. Creating mini-wetland and harnessing natural water on site, if you have the opportunity, is not just about the joy of seeing nature up close; but it actually has a much larger environmental impact. Wetlands act as filters, absorbing pollutants, and can reduce flooding by holding excess water. They also provide vital habitats for numerous species. And while not a massive transformation, by turning an initially annoying issue into an ecological opportunity, I realized that small actions in my backyard are tangibly contributing to the larger efforts of global sustainability. But we need to all do the little things collectively to make it material for the globe.


Encouraging Others

If you have an active sump pump or an underutilized water source, why not transform a corner of your yard into a lively ecosystem? It’s simpler than you think, and the rewards are immeasurable. Here’s how you can start:

  • Identify an area where water can be channeled and pool.

  • Look for a corner or space that is not being used and can accommodate water without causing issues.

  • Dig a hole and monitor the water to see how long the water lingers. If the water disappears too quickly, you may need to introduce some clay to the site to help reduce the speed at which the water seeps in to the ground.

  • If you have the ability, plant species that can thrive in waterlogged conditions. While not in the photos, I planted a buttonbush in early spring off to the side prior to digging this hole, which is native to my region and is known to thrive in up to 3 feet of standing water. It's thriving.

  • Watch and wait as nature does its magic. It might take some time, but soon you’ll notice the wildlife beginning to visit and inhabit your mini-ecosystem.

  • Spread the Word. Share your experiences with friends, family, or online to inspire others.

Conclusion

Our unexpected journey from a sump pump issue to creating a tiny backyard oasis was unexpected but profoundly rewarding. Not only have I gained a newfound appreciation for the resilience of nature, but my small wetland also contributes positively to the environment. If you’re facing a similar situation, I urge you to give it a try. And don’t forget to share your own stories. Together, we can make our backyards a canvas for nature’s beauty and a stronghold for sustainability.


What will your backyard story be?

 

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