But in our towns and cities, are our gardens getting greyer? A new poll from the Royal Horticultural Society suggests that 15 square miles of front garden have been paved over in the last decade. An estimated five million now have no plants at all. In the back garden, conservatories, patios and decking all add to the hard, impermeable surfaces.
With concerns being raised over biodiversity loss, flooding risk and rising urban temperatures, should we be doing more to keep our gardens green?
Here in the South West, South West Water is currently developing WaterShed projects right across the region aimed at 're-greening' urban spaces to create natural flood alleviation in towns and cities prone to sewer flooding.
The first project is in Truro, a city with a long history of flooding. South West Water is working with the community in the Redannick area to develop a natural store for stormwater in the local park and disconnecting some houses from the combined sewerage system. Paid for by South West Water, as part of its commitment to reducing sewer flooding, 10 homes in the area are in the process of having rain harvesting systems, rain gardens or soakaways installed instead of having their roof water drain to the combined sewerage system.
Richard Behan, Flood Risk Manager at South West Water, explains: "Historically we have a combined system where stormwater goes into the sewers. However, as more and more green space is paved over, less water is absorbed into the ground and is ending up in the sewers instead. When it rains hard this overloads the pipes, which have a finite capacity.
"We want to reverse this trend. We have built storm tanks all over the South West but there are also greener, more sustainable ways we can keep stormwater out of the sewers. Our WaterShed projects are all about working with communities to find ways of storing water where it falls and letting it soak harmlessly into the ground.
"There are many ways we can do that and we're keen to work with communities to find the ways that suit them best - whether it's using stormwater for irrigating plants on roundabouts or directing it into tree pits or, as in Truro, by directing roof water into a natural swale in the park and enhancing the park at the same time.
"The RHS website has lots of great advice for people who'd like to help reverse the trend for paving over permeable ground, and in the meantime we are focusing on places which have persistent sewer flooding problems and where removing stormwater could make a real difference to sewer flooding whilst improving the local environment at the same time."
Find out more about WaterShed Truro
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