Rainwater Management in the Georgia Basin: Capital Regional District workshop celebrates on-the-ground successes


Rainwater Management in the Georgia Basin

In November 2007, the Capital Regional District  hosted a full 1-day workshop titled Bio/Infiltration: Tools for Rainwater Management. Organized under the umbrella of the Stormwater, Harbours and Watersheds Program, the workshop emphasis was on municipal implementation, particularly funding, bylaws and other tools available to municipalities to work towards innovative rainwater management.

The Stormwater, Harbours & Watersheds Program (SHWP) works with municipalities and the community to maintain healthy watersheds and protect the near shore receiving environment. The Program takes a collaborative approach by involving the community, environmental and professional organizations and all levels of government.

The workshop featured case studies from both sides of the Georgia Basin, thereby facilitating a sharing of experiences.

City of Langford Rainwater Management: Managing Risk…Learning by Doing… Adapting…

From its inception in 1992, the City of Langford embraced a philosophy of managing risk and learning by doing. This has become the corporate culture. A corporate culture that is willing to accept and then manage risk with regards to infrastructure standards can open the door to creativity, innovation – and its rewards. The Langford experience is a case study application of how to implement Adaptive Management  as envisioned in Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia.

To Learn More:

To download a copy of the presentation by John Manson, City Engineer, click on this link to City of Langford Rainwater Management: Managing Risk…Learning by Doing…Adapting…

CRD 11 - john mansonLangford was one of four case studies featured at the Creating Our Future Workshop  that was held on June 3rd in conjunction with the Gaining Ground Summit in Victoria. The workshop was a consultation opportunity for Vancouver Island local governments that are interested in implementing infrastructure practices and regulation that result in green value; and set the stage for the 2007 Showcasing Innovation Series and 2007 Green Infrastructure Leadership Forum.

Rainwater Management Overview & Site Adaptive Planning

Paul de Greeff, landscape planner, opened his thought-provoking presentation by asking this rhetorical question: “What is innovative rainwater management, and why should we pursue it as municipalities and developers?” He then provided the following perspective:

Site Processes, Systems and Context

CRD 12 - paul de greeff (160p)According to Paul, “If we view innovative rainwater management comprehensively, it starts with an understanding of site processes, systems and context.  If we don’t first understand the systems that we are designing within, and the full breadth of constraints and opportunities present on a site, fitting rainwater management systems into the landscape is a bit like making a medical diagnosis and prescription without first taking a patient history, lab tests or in any way trying to understand the patient.”

An appreciation that every site is different and has different needs or resiliencies is an essential first step for addressing innovative rainwater management.

Site Adaptive Planning

‘Site Adaptive Planning’ is a term coined by Will Marsh, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan.  It is the practice of investigating and analysing landscape processes and attributes to understand how they function and where they are more sensitive or more resilient, and then planning how we might begin to fit development into landscapes in a manner that responds to how a site functions.   Site adaptive planning requires reading sites to define and describe the working systems, extending our analysis and exploration as far as the systems go (the systems define the dimensions of the site).  It also requires understanding how to design new systems that meet development goals, but also fit the existing landscape systems to achieve more sensitive, functional and hopefully sustainable solutions.

The planning and design of new development and re-development needs to be ‘site adaptive’ or fitted to the opportunities and constraints inherent in the landscape.  This amounts to more than fitting buildings around protected trees, or avoiding the filling in of a wetland.  It can also require understanding things like hydrological processes, soil characteristics, existing subsurface drainage patterns and vegetation requirements on a site, so that when we do begin to design, we can chose the right technologies to apply, respond to opportunities that may already exist on a site, and protect sensitive or valued site features and attributes.

To Learn More:

To download a copy of the presentation by Paul de Greeff, click on this link to Site Adaptive Planning and Design.

Silver Ridge Low Impact Residential Development in Maple Ridge

Silver Ridge in Maple Ridge is a mixed density residential comprising 393 units constructed on 34 hectares. The site topography is relatively steep with lot grades ranging from 5% to 25% and road grades ranging from 2% to 15%. The site discharges to an important fish-bearing creek and environmentally sensitive bog.

The plan for rainwater management included a combination of on-lot and roadside volume reduction and water quality controls. The implementation of low impact development measures on steep topography makes this project unique:

  • CRD 10 - chris johnstonOn-lot controls included disconnected roof leaders, absorbent soils, rock pits, and rain gardens.
  • Roadside controls included rain gardens.

Chris Johnston, consulting water resource engineer, described the details of the plan and facilities that were designed and constructed to ensure the development would meet the required drainage and rainwater management criteria. He also presented the preliminary performance monitoring results for the roadside rain gardens.

To Learn More:

To download a copy of his presentation, click on this link to Silver Ridge Low Impact Residential Development.

City of Nanaimo Experience in Stormwater/Rainwater Management: Getting from here to where we want to go

Dean Mousseau and Kevin Brydges provided the engineering and environmental perspectives, respectively, in discussing their trials and tribulations in reconciling Council policies with traditional engineering standards. The Engineering and Development Services departments have a different understanding and/or interpretation of the drainage mandate, and this has resulted in road blocks (challenges) that have been overcome incrementally over time.

From the perspective of the Development Services Department, a key to moving forward with implementation of sustainable practices is making the distinction between ‘flow characteristics’ and ‘peak flows’. By placing the emphasis on maintaining ‘flow characteristics’, this has facilitated implementation of a water balance way-of-designing on-lot measures for rainwater runoff volume reduction.

In reviewing the tools available to municipal staff, Dean Mousseau noted that his area of heaviest involvement is at the Design Stage Acceptance. He then commented on how the Steep Slope Policy is creating opportunities to approach land development differently. The flexibility provided by the ability to transfer density results in an incentive for developers to collaborate with municipal staff to achieve design with nature outcomes.

Dean Mousseu and Kevin Brydges elaborated on the Cottle Creek Estates development to illustrate the new direction in Nanaimo.

Pressure to build on hillside lands was the catalyst for the City of Nanaimo adopting the steep slope development permit area and zoning bylaws. Cottle Creek Estates provides an early example of how these bylaws, and Nanaimo’s approach to green infrastructure, are being implemented. This  precedent-setting residential development is located off Hammond Bay Road in the Departure Bay area of Nanaimo, and was featured as part of Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation in the Nanaimo Region.

To Learn More:

To download of their presentation, click on this link to City of Nanaimo Stormwater.

What’s happening in Surrey

According to Remi Dube, Drainage Planning Manager, the City of Surrey has been quietly plugging away at finding an answer to one of today’s most important questions in urban rainwater management: ‘How can we accommodate forecasted growth while achieving community liveability, urban stream health and environmental protection outcomes at a watershed scale.’

Remi’s presentation highlighted the City’s key milestones in the field of rainwater/stormwater management from the East Clayton Sustainable Community Plan to the most recent watershed-based integrated plan for the Fergus Creek watershed.  These plans were developed and implemented while the City experienced an average population growth of 2.5% per year including a peak year of 3.4% in 2006.  Key components of how the City currently develops its plans as well as current design and implementation examples were discussed.

To Learn More:

To download a copy of his presentation, click on this link to What’s happening in Surrey.

Fergus Creek Integrated Plan

The Fergus Plan is the pilot for going Beyond the Guidebook. There are  two precedent-setting dimensions to the pilot:

  • There will be no large-scale storage ponds. Rather, rainwater runoff volume will be managed through constructed facilities and the creation of contiguous large-scale greenways that have been integrated into the area’s land use plan.
  • Because a science-based analytical methodology has been validated through the Fergus Creek process, other local governments can now explore the fundamental requirements both explicit and implicit in the DFO Guidelines for stream health and environmental protection.

The Fergus Creek watershed is a case study for both green field and retrofit scenarios. According to Remi Dubé, “Fergus is the first of the new generation of ISMPs that the City is undertaking. Our goal has been to develop an array of tools under the umbrella of the Fergus ISMP. Because we wished to avoid a cookie-cutter approach that is too often an outcome of this type of multi-year program, we challenged the consulting engineering community to demonstrate their innovation in providing us with a work plan that would actually facilitate changes in how land is developed and/or re-developed in Surrey.”

The Fergus Plan was featured as part of Showcasing Innovation in the City of Surrey in 2006. This was the second event in the pilot series for the Celebrating Green Infrastructure Program.

Town of View Royal – Island Highway Improvement Project

View Royal’s Highway Improvement Project will provide more travel choices that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other vehicle emissions. The project also uses innovative technology to treat the stormater/rainwater runoff, improving the natural habitat of Portage Inlet and Esquimalt Harbour.

Emmet McCusker, Director of Engineering for the Town of View Royal, and Rob Warren, consulting engineer, described how bioswales and rain gardens have been incorporated in the roadway re-design to capture road runoff at the sources, and remove most of the contaminants prior to discharging the runoff into the marine environment.

To Learn More:

To download a copy of their presentation, click on this link to Town of View Royal – Island Highway Improvement Project.

Implementation of Rainwater Management Facilities

Lehna Malmkvist, professional biologist, provided an overview of the issues that often plague the implementation of innovative rainwater management projects. Topics that she covered included the role of Environmental Monitoring, Construction Supervision, and Erosion & Sediment Control.

To Learn More:

To download a copy of Lehna’s presentation, click on this link to Implementation of Rainwater Management Facilities.

Green Infrastructure Innovation: Celebrating On-the-Ground Successes on Both Sides of the Georgia Basin

The concluding presentation by Kim Stephens, Program Coordinator for the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, tied together the ideas from the day by integrating the following key thoughts:

  • Where we want to go
  • Where we need to go
  • How to get there
  • CAVI and Province Perspectives

CRD 3 - kim stephens (160p)To address these four items, Kim’s presentation was structured in three parts. First, he described the Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series  that was held in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island in 2007. Then he provided an overview of CAVI – Convening for Action on Vancouver Island . And finally, Kim summarized the Province’s perspective by presenting material that Chris Jensen of the Ministry of Community Services had presented at the Beyond the Guidebook Seminar  the week before the CRD workshop.

To Learn More:

To download a copy of the presentation by Kim Stephens, click on this link to Green Infrastructure Innovation: Celebrating On-the-Ground Successes on Both Sides of the Georgia Basin.

From Stormwater Management to Rainwater Management

Kim Stephens prefaced his remarks by providing his perspective on why rainwater management is replacing stormwater management  in the practitioners’ vocabulary.

“When I graduated from university in 1973, we called it drainage. Then in the mid-1970s the term stormwater management appeared in the literature,” explained Stephens, “As far as I can determine, this terminology originated with the ‘pipe guys’ who were primarily concerned with making the distinction between sanitary and storm flows in combined sewer systems.”

“Lately, I have observed that the term rainwater management resonates with non-engineers and the community at large. They intuitively get it,” Kim continued, “The presentations by Paul de Greeff and Lehna Malmkvist really brought home the point that rainwater management is about integration and an interdisciplinary approach that is landscape-based, and therefore goes well beyond the narrow engineering definition for conventional stormwater management.”

Kim observed that a Vancouver Island inter-agency team has been formed to promote the landscape-based approach because rainwater management is at the heart of green infrastructure.

Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation:

The projected growth of the Georgia Basin bio-region and resulting cumulative impacts are drivers for reassessing how land is developed and water is used. To promote a new way-of-thinking related to infrastructure policies and practices, the Green Infrastructure Partnership developed and promoted regional Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series. The 2007 Vancouver Island Series  was organized in collaboration with CAVI.

According to Kim Stephens, “The goal in showcasing innovation and celebrating successes was to promote networking, build regional capacity, and move ‘from awareness to action’ – through sharing of green infrastructure approaches, tools, experiences and lessons learned as an outcome of designing with nature.”

Each Vancouver Island event was co-hosted by a regional district and one or more of its member municipalities. Each event comprised presentations in the morning and a tour of project sites in the afternoon. Each event was unique.

CAVI – Leadership in Water Sustainability:

CAVI is a grassroots, collective partnership committed to achieving settlement in balance with ecology, beginning with water-centric planning. CAVI has produced a brochure titled CAVI – Convening for Action on Vancouver Island: Leadership in Water Sustainability .

CAVI is a regional pilot that is being implemented under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia . The CAVI vision is that by 2010, Vancouver Island will be well on its way to achieving water sustainability.

The purpose of CAVI is to provide leadership, coordination, research and education for practitioners (primarily local government administrators, engineers, planners and elected persons) to plan for management of sustainable water resources in the context of future settlement activity.

According to Kim Stephens, “The CAVI leadership believes that Water Sustainability will be achieved through Green Infrastructure practices that reflect a full and proper understanding of the relationship between land and water.”

The Province’s Perspective:

Under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, the Green Infrastructure Partnership began the roll-out of Beyond the Guidebook  in June 2007. Because the Green Infrastructure Partnership includes the Ministry of Community Services and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the seminar that was held the week before the CRD workshop provided a timely opportunity to inform local government and land use practitioners regarding the emerging policy framework and senior government expectations for applying a Beyond the Guidebook approach to land development and watershed management.

Beyond the Guidebook refers to a runoff-based approach to drainage modeling that connects the dots between source control evaluation and stream health assessment. In a nutshell, it means this is ‘where science meets analysis’ because runoff volume management is directly linked to stream erosion and water quality.

Today, the Province’s grant program guides provide direction and the associated evaluation criteria support green projects. Tomorrow grant conditions will be used to bring some recipients up to a certain “green” standard; and down the road meeting a “green” standard will be a requirement for grant eligibility.