OKANAGAN RAIN TO RESOURCE WORKSHOP: Re-Inventing Rainwater Management – A Strategy to Protect Health and Restore Nature in British Columbia’s Capital Region (October 2010)

Note to Readers:

The purpose of Day 2 of the From Rain to Resource Workshop on October 29 in Kelowna is to integrate the perspectives of the people working on-the-ground and those developing and adopting policy. Calvin Sandborn, Director of the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Victoria will elaborate on Re-Inventing Rainwater Management: A Strategy to Protect Health and Restore Resources in the Capital Region, released in February 2010 at the Bowker Creek Forum.

Re-Inventing Rainwater Management

The Uvic Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria has proposed a strategy to re-invent rainwater management in the Capital Regional District.

Re-Inventing Rainwater Management: A Strategy to Protect Health and Restore Resources in the Capital Region documents how ‘green’ rainwater management has now been adopted by engineers, developers, planners and governments across North America.

The report also demonstrates that ‘Design with Nature’ approaches and Low Impact Development techniques are environmentally superior, and often are cheaper. In addition, they can provide incalculable benefits.

To Learn More:

To download a copy of Re-Inventing Rainwater Management and learn much more,click here.

Nature of the Problem

Calvin sandborn (240p) - photo from focus magazineWhen it rains in Greater Victoria, water sweeps over roofs, streets and parking lots and picks up a multitude of pollutants.  A network of curbs, gutters and pipes deliver that tainted water at high speed and volume into sensitive water bodies.  This runoff carries oil, gasoline, heavy metals, feces, solvents, old lead paint chips, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and PAHs into our streams and ocean,” explains Calvin Sandborn.

“Stormwater has turned bountiful urban salmon streams into barren, polluted drainage ditches.  It has closed many of the Capital Region’s shellfish beds, and threatens the survival of local orcas.”

“This is the legacy of our obsolete 19th century stormwater management system – a system that fails to respect natural systems and water cycles.  However, rainwater management practices have now been developed that make the 21st century Green City possible.”

Re-Inventing rainwater management - images for banner (360p)

Design with Nature

“Instead of relying on pipes and concrete alone, this new approach relies upon soil, trees and open space to naturally absorb, store, evaporate and filter rainwater.  This Low Impact Development (LID) approach mimics the natural water cycle — allowing water to infiltrate down through the soil and slowly release into the watershed,” continues Calvin Sandborn.

“Engineers, developers, and governments across North America are adopting green rainwater management techniques – including porous pavement, brick pavers, narrower streets, sidewalk planter boxes, replacing curbs and gutters with grassy boulevards and swales, improving soil absorption, retention ponds, rain gardens, and green roofs.  Such LID techniques are now required for all new development in western Washington State.”

“Often cheaper than conventional pipes and concrete, LID provides additional benefits – it adds urban green space and recreational areas, cleans water and air, and makes the community more attractive.  Philadelphia recently launched the most ambitious LID effort in North America, after receiving an analysis that showed that LID provides 23 times the total social, environmental and economic benefits of conventional stormwater management.”

Elements of a Strategy

As explained by Calvin Sandborn, the Environmental Law Centre recommends a similar strategy for the Capital Regional District:

  • Local governments should require Low Impact techniques for all new developments — and create a long-term plan to retrofit developed areas with green infrastructure.
  • A Regional Rainwater Commission should be set up to create an Integrated Watershed Management Plan for dealing with rainwater.  Region-wide watershed planning is essential – it won’t work if Oak Bay protects Bowker Creek and Victoria and Saanich fail to protect their portions of the same watershed.
  • The plan should set mandatory targets, including: rlimination of stormwater discharges rated “high” for public health concern by 2015; and elimination of discharges rated “high” for environmental concern by 2015.

“We must spend the money to fix the old pipes that allow sewage to mix with storm water and flow onto beaches.  Financing should come from a ‘user pay’ system like Portland’s — which encourages homeowners to reduce runoff, saving the homeowner and government money,” emphasizes Calvin Sandborn.

“The strategy must actively involve residents, developers, businesses, and stewardship groups.”

Vision and task (450p)

To Learn More About Re-Inventing Rainwater Management

Click on the links below to access stories previously published on the waterbucket.ca website:


from Stormwater to RAINwater_March2010