Atlantic Cities

When It Comes to Flood Prevention, Not All Grass Is Created Equal

When It Comes to Flood Prevention, Not All Grass Is Created Equal
Reuters

With half of Grand Rapids underwater, it's time for America's annual spring discussion about flood prevention.

It's well known that sprawling asphalt cities turn whole areas into the flooding equivalent of Antelope Canyon, requiring cities to greatly expand storm drain capacity for even moderate storms and putting houses underwater during the worst events. It's simple: concrete doesn't absorb water; grass, shrubs and trees do.

When it comes to grass, though, not all species are created equal. In a paper published on Thursday in Scientific Reports, researchers at three British universities have announced the development of a hybrid grass that is significantly more absorbent than its peers.

The new species, which they are calling Festulolium (it's Lolium perenne, or perennial ryegrass, plus Festuca pratensis, or meadow fescue), decreases runoff by as much as 51 percent more than ryegrass does. Ryegrass grows quickly and easily, while meadow fescue has strong root systems and good water retention. Festulolium is the best of both worlds.

Plus, it's tasty -- ryegrass is a traditional staple for farmers, but if they were growing Festulolium instead, their urban neighbors might be very grateful.

Top image: Fescue (foreground) and ryegrass (background) on the golf course of Pinehurst Resort, North Carolina. Reuters.

Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at The Atlantic Cities. He lives in New York. All posts »

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