What’s Old is New Again

Posted by – Shawn Keenan, Water Resources Coordinator

Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes

Over 500 years ago, the Inca Empire built an estate called “Machu Picchu” on a ridge in the Peruvian Andes about 8,000 feet above sea level.

Amazingly, it still stands strong today despite withstanding average annual rainfalls of 76 inches over the years.  That number makes our average rainfall of 30 inches in Auburn Hills seem to pale in comparison.  Why didn’t this ancient complex just erode away over time?  The answer is simple: Low Impact Development (LID).

For those not familiar with LID, it’s the cornerstone of stormwater management.  It uses the basic principle that’s modeled after nature … manage rainfall where it lands.

This design allowed the stormwater to infiltrate into the land to stabilize the slope

The ancient day engineers designed Machu Picchu with a number of terraces using layers of soil, sand, and rocks to infiltrate hundreds of gallons of water while also stabilizing the mountain slope.  This design allowed the water to infiltrate into the land rather than allowing the forces of nature to erode it.  It’s truly one of the world’s engineering marvels, which we all can still learn from today.

Interestingly, the City of Auburn Hills is using these same LID techniques pioneered by the ancients to minimize and reverse the negative impact often caused by conventional development practices.  These rediscovered techniques include the use of: rain gardens, infiltration trenches, planter boxes, green roofs, and cisterns.

Over the years, Auburn Hills has helped inform the public and private sectors on the many ways these techniques can be used in development projects – to not only protect our water resources, but save money as well.

We have “walked the talk” and built a number of demonstration projects that have resulted in the installation and use of 33 LID techniques.

Bioswale which allows water to soak into the ground at the Community Center

It’s funny how what was old is now new again.