Natural Benefits of a Floodplain

The Village of Niles straddles two major watersheds. The west side of the village is the Des Plaines River Watershed, while the east side is in the North Branch Chicago River watershed everyone lives in a watershed.

What Is A Watershed?
A watershed is simply a land area that collects and feeds water runoff into a channel or drain. This water can come in the form of rain, snow, irrigation, etc. There are a number of man-made features which feed water runoff from the watershed into our rivers, lakes, or streams. These include drainage swales, paved surfaces such as streets or driveways, storm sewers, etc.

Located in these watersheds are areas designated as floodway and floodplain. The floodway is the channel or area that conveys water, i.e. a river, stream, or creek. The floodway is that area that is below the base flood elevation and is susceptible to flooding. By their very definition, these areas require special care and attention. They serve a very important function in protecting and enhancing the watershed.

In Niles, we have been fortunate to have large portions of our watershed floodplains and floodways reserved as open space due to the Niles Park District and the Cook County Forest Preserve District. Each of these districts contains a majority of the floodplain and floodway located in Niles. The Niles Park District also has a wetlands area that can hold large quantities of water after rain or snow events. This native area, with their deep rooted native plants, filter out pollutants and chemicals from the water further protecting our rivers’ water quality. In addition, because of the natural state of these areas and the ready water source, there is significant ecological diversity of plants and wildlife in these locations.

​Our Impact
Because we all live in a watershed, we all contribute to the water runoff. We need to be aware of our impact. We must not wash pollutants or chemicals into the storm sewers. These storm sewers feed into our open waterways. We should strive to keep water that falls on our property on our property. This can be done through directing water runoff from our roofs, sump pumps and driveways into rain barrels, rain gardens, open vegetated swales, or other features where that water can be used in a constructive way or absorbed by plants.

We should consider planting plants on our property that are native to our area. They require less watering and absorb more water than many non-native plants. We need to look for ways to reduce impermeable surfaces so that water can reach the soil rather than run off causing flooding.

Rainwater Usage
Read online about how to utilize rainwater.