The Water Conservation Project Is Open - Brooklyn Botanic Garden
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The Water Conservation Project Is Open

Fresh water is now circulating throughout the Garden as the Water Conservation Project has opened.

“I hope this serves a model for how botanic gardens and other cultural institutions can contribute real solutions to the environmental problems confronting us,” said Scot Medbury, BBG president, at the official opening Tuesday.

The Garden will consume dramatically less city water thanks to the innovative system designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. Water from the pond in the Garden’s historic Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden will now flow into Belle’s Brook, which runs through the Plant Family Collection, and then into the pond system in the Shelby White and Leon Levy Water Garden. From there it will be recirculated back to the Japanese Garden pond via underground pipes. Previously, pond overflow ran into the storm drain.

“Improvements will be invisible to most people,” said Michael Van Valkenburgh, the landscape architect who headed up the project. “But they will conserve millions of gallons of water.”

The project will reduce the Garden’s freshwater consumption from 22 million gallons a year to less than one million.

The recently expanded pond in the Water Garden also acts as a catchment basin during heavy rainstorms. Its water level will drop in advance of a storm so that excess rain can be held there, reducing the amount that flows into the storm drain and helping to prevent sewage overflows into nearby waterways.

Creating the project also involved adding the Water Garden at the south end of the Garden and renovating the Garden’s historic Plant Family Collection. The small stream that ran through this area was reconfigured into a meandering brook lined with stones. Several waterfalls were also added, and pathways and wooden plank bridges were placed in ways that draw people into the garden, closer to the stream and the plant collections.

After the ribbon was cut by Shelby White, trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation, Medbury, and Diane Steinberg, Brooklyn Botanic Garden board chair, children from Maple Street School helped celebrate by launching small boats they’d made from magnolia leaves into Belle’s Brook, and everyone watched them float merrily downstream.

Sarah Schmidt is a former editor of BBG's digital editorial content and the Guides for a Greener Planet handbook series.

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Image, top of page: Julienne Schaer