Knoxville — Ah, beautiful June in Iowa. Come drive with me. See beautiful land and wide spreading lawns. See our towns and cities with well-trimmed lawns. See the expanse of low-mowed lawn around large suburban homes. And the activity! Retired farmers happily ride their lawnmowers over lawns, grader ditches, and everything but the corn field. Well-paid lawn keepers guide elegant little mowers to shear all the growing green at just the right height.
Meanwhile, we’ve read: “Floodwaters filling Saylorville like a tub” or “Storms put Iowans in saturated state.” And we’ve noticed that White Breast “Creek” and Teter “Creek” are now White Breast Lake and Teter Lake.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Is there a connection? Remember stories of the native people? They allowed grasses to grow five or six feet both above ground and below ground, and they did not even have a word for “flood” – they didn’t need it. Notice that in today’s fields where farmers want to protect the land, they have grassy strips called “waterways” so water can infiltrate rather than create gullies of fast-flowing rain water.
I know there’s a connection between lawns and floods. It should be obvious: Taller, healthier grass absorbs more water. In fact, I’ve read that a low-mowed lawn is second only to sheer concrete in the rate it sends water flowing down the grade. But I Googled and Googled to get a handy statistic – vast resources on watering your lawn, repairing your lawn after a flood, and floods in Oak Lawn and Fair Lawn – but nothing clear on growing lawns to hold water. Finally, one brave web site from Lake George, New York, put it in print: “Large lawns that extend to the lakefront increase … stormwater runoff from developed sites and uplands.”