Leading Change in Metro Vancouver: Delta’s Rain Garden Program Connects a Generation of Students to their Watersheds


Hugh Fraser, Deputy Director of Engineering (Photo credit: Delta Museum & Archives Society)

Hugh Fraser, Deputy Director of Engineering
(Photo credit: Delta Museum & Archives Society)

Rain Gardens Help Restore Nature to Urban Delta

“Delta is making ‘green infrastructure’ a standard practice in our community.  These are no longer just ‘pilot projects’,” states Hugh Fraser, Deputy Director of Engineering with the Corporation of Delta, a municipality in the Metro Vancouver region. 

“Since 2005, Delta’s Engineering Department has installed porous parking lots, swales, infiltration galleries, a daylighted ditch, rain gardens, and thousands of trees.  Delta incorporates stormwater best management practices in every capital roads/utility project, where feasible.”

“As part of a comprehensive program to enhance streetscapes, Delta has constructed a total of 50-plus rain gardens. 10 of these are located at elementary schools; and a substantial number of project locations include multiple rain gardens along roadways or at parking lots.”

School Rain Garden Program

“Delta has developed a rain garden program with local elementary schools, whereby city employees design and construct rain gardens at schools and then coordinate a community planting day with local streamkeepers, school children, and neighbourhood volunteers,” continues Sarah Howie, the municipality’s urban environmental designer in streetscapes and natural areas.

Sarah Howie_2014“The purpose of constructing rain gardens at elementary schools is to improve fish habitat in Delta’s waterways by promoting infiltration of rainwater runoff into rain gardens instead of discharging directly into storm sewers.”

“A ‘Rain Gardeners’ curriculum-based education program for Grade 4 and 5 students accompanies the rain garden construction.  These ‘rain gardeners’ connect to their local watershed and raise awareness as to how everyday actions may impact nearby watercourses.”

“The rain garden allows students to experience caring for nature by maintaining the garden.  The benefits of the school rain garden program are already evident, as students entering secondary school who have ‘owned’ rain gardens at their old elementary schools continue to be involved in other rain garden activities in their local community.”

“We are in the process of constructing our tenth elementary school rain garden in North Delta, with only a few schools left to go. Thanks to the leadership and educational talks by the Cougar Creek Streamkeepers (and Deborah Jones in particular), a generation of students in North Delta has learned how watersheds work and why rain gardens can help improve aquatic habitat,” concludes Sarah Howie.

2007 Showcasing Green Infrastructure Series

In September 2007, Delta was a host municipality for Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation in the Greater Vancouver Region: The 2007 Series. A featured project was the rain garden at Cougar Canyon Elementary School. This established the template for involving the municipality, schools and a neighbourhood in creating community rain gardens to protect the health of  downstream creeks.

To Learn More:

To read a comprehensive story about Delta’s rain garden program, click on Rain gardens help restore nature to urban Delta and download a copy of an article published in the South Delta Leader community newspaper.

To view a set of 22 “before” and “after” photos of rain garden installations in Delta, click here.

To read about the 2007 Series, click on Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series in Metro Vancouver launched in Delta.

Sunshine Hills rain garden - after