Taming Stormwater with Trees

by Catherine Haug, September 23, 2011

Bigfork is currently under construction to build a new stormwater system. The project started last year from the top of Grand Drive near the school, to downtown at the intersection with Electric Ave. This year, the system is extended south along Electric Ave to River Street. In future years, it will continue south to the old bridge.

This system involves a series of plastic or fiberglass filtration systems, piping, and manholes under the surface of the streets, to keep toxic substances from entering the Swan River and Bigfork Bay. But did you know there is a better, more natural way to accomplish the same end, and at the same time provide an even more beautiful city landscape?

Smart Use of Trees

Last January, Sally Janover did a presentation for ESP titled The Smart Use of Trees (see Gathering Summary). Of the many topics she discussed, she also addressed stormwater:

“Trees reduce topsoil erosion, reduce storm water and surface runoff, and act as natural pollution filters. Tree roots remove harmful nutrients that otherwise would harm water quality. Less runoff and erosion allows for more recharging of the ground water supply.”


Stormwater Poster

Interactive Poster: Trees Tame Stormwater



(image from Ethical & Green Blog)

Arbor Day and Tree City USA are placing a focus on the use of trees to tame stormwater. There is an excellent interactive poster on their website: Trees Tame Stormwater: An Interactive Poster. When you pull up the link, you will see a pretty bleak, but fairly typical city landscape with a river running through it. At the top is a slider; slide it to the right (add more trees) to see how the city blossoms and the ecology of the river improves. It also has numbered points of reference to learn how adding trees in various situations helps the landscape.

NOTE: I just added Trees Tame Stormwater (interactive poster) to the links column on the right side of our home page, under “Sustainability”

See also a very helpful article (pdf) from Tree City USA: How Trees Can Retain Stormwater Runoff. See also Resources for How Trees Can Retain Stormwater Runoff


  1. Gathering Summary: The Smart Use of Trees, by Sally Janover, January 2011
  2. Trees Tame Stormwater: An Interactive Poster
  3. How Trees Can Retain Stormwater Runoff
  4. Ethical & Green Blog: Tree City USA Communities — Where Trees Tame Stormwater

One Response to “Taming Stormwater with Trees”

  1. Edd B. says:

    I have to wonder if there is really enough available space [in Bigfork] to plant the number of trees that would be required to make the same impact on stormwater runoff that the engineered system which is currently being installed will make. [Especially] around the Village proper.