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Smaller Hydrologic Footprint

FLASHBACK TO 2009: “To do an Integrated Stormwater Management Plan right, one has to start with the desired outcome – which is protect or improve stream health – and then determine what actions in the watershed will green the urban landscape,” stated Kim Stephens, Chair of Metro Vancouver’s Liquid Waste Management Reference Panel, when reporting out to regional elected representatives


A commitment by Metro Vancouver municipalities to integrate land use and drainage planning was the genesis for Integrated Stormwater Management Plans (ISMPs). “When the Reference Panel reported back to the Waste Management Committee in July 2008, we identified the ISMP process as a sleeper issue because there are 130 watersheds in the region; and continuation of the old-business-as-usual would potentially result in an aggregate unfunded liability that could easily equal the $1.4 billion cost of sewage treatment,” stated Kim Stephens.

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GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE IN URBAN CENTRES: “Our goal was to design a course to have appeal and applicability for professionals from diverse disciplines seeking to understand green infrastructure’s potential for managing the impacts of urbanization and climate change,” said Dr. Joanna Ashworth, Simon Fraser University


“Whether it’s the community coming together to build rain gardens or adopt catch basins, dedicated volunteer streamkeepers who put in countless hours restoring and protecting important salmon habitat, or government decision-makers and employees enacting policies, everyone has a role to play in advancing Green Infrastructure implementation. There’s more work to be done as we collectively travel along a path to find upstream, proactive solutions to climate change impacts and growing urban centres,” stated Joanna Ashworth.

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FLASHBACK TO 2008: “It strikes me that we have created a new social norm; and it is being accepted by the development community as a whole,” stated BC Environment’s Maggie Henigman during a town-hall session when she commented on changes in rainwater management practice at the second in the Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series


“Since 1996 I have been working across Vancouver Island, both reviewing development proposals and monitoring project implementation. In the last couple of years I have been really pleased to see a huge shift take place in the way projects are being done. As I reflect on the current situation, the change in attitude is really gaining momentum. Everywhere I go I am seeing evidence of the new ethic. It is not that everyone is perfect, but the change is really coming,” stated Maggie Henigman.

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REALITY CHECK FOR MAINTAINING THE NATURAL WATER BALANCE IN URBAN AREAS: About 5.5% of developed land in the continental United States is covered by impervious parking lots! – a research finding by US Geological Survey


There were more than 275 million registered motor vehicles in the U.S. in 2018. Accommodating that number of vehicles requires an enormous network of parking lots, the vast majority of which are made of impervious pavement that rainwater cannot infiltrate. Until now, researchers have been unable to gauge the full extent of impervious parking lot coverage in a scientifically sound way. Findings from the model could be valuable for urban planners and watershed managers as they plan new developments or retrofit existing areas where runoff pollution is a major issue, according to James Falcone of the USGS.

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MOVING TOWARDS RESTORATIVE LAND DEVELOPMENT: “It is not a sprint. We are in it for the long haul; and we all need to recognize that we are in it for the long haul. I wonder what Ian McHarg would think if he could be with us today, 50 years after he wrote Design with Nature,” stated Bill Derry when he delivered the opening keynote on behalf of Kitsap County’s Chris May, Surface & Stormwater Division Director, at the Parksville 2019 Symposium


The ‘salmon crisis’ in the 1990s was the driver for pioneer research at Washington State University that correlated land use changes with impacts on stream health. The resulting science-based understanding opened the door to the Water Balance approach to rainwater management in BC. “Data are fine, but you must be able to show decision-makers and the public that we are making a difference and being cost-effective with funding,” stated Bill Derry. “You must be able to develop and tell stories. If you can tell stories well, that is how to make the biggest difference.”

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STRIVING FOR A SMALLER HYDROLOGIC FOOTPRINT: “I wanted to come up with answers to two questions: How much green infrastructure do we need, and where should it be located?” stated Moira Zellner, University of Illinois


“We built a computational cellular model of integrating land cover with hydrology, and when we built this model, we tried to answer those two questions with it,” stated Moira Zellner.”For small storms, we need about 10 percent coverage of green infrastructure to prevent runoff from going downstream. The locations [of green infrastructure] which are more scattered but also follow roads are particularly good. Roads are built to convey water, and if we put [these green infrastructures] around the roads, then what it does is it enhances a function of the road as a way to store and convey and drain water toward the sewers.”

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ENGINEERED NATURE: “The world is round, but Detroit is extremely flat,” said Palencia Mobley, chief engineer, when explaining the approach to Green Stormwater Infrastructure


In Detroit, simply making a park where there was once a building is often not enough to prevent flooding due to its topography and geology: “We don’t have a lot of elevation to move water. Another problem is that Detroit is full of clay soil which doesn’t readily absorb water,” said Palencia Mobley. So many Green Stormwater Infrastructure projects in Detroit excavate the clay and mix it with sand or gravel so water can move underground faster.

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FLASHBACK TO 2007: “The Capital Regional District Headquarters Building is the first LEEDs Gold Certified building in the Capital Region,” reported Jody Watson


“The CRD has installed a new weather station that is part of the performance monitoring program for the green roof project,” stated Jody Watson. “The extensive green roof and the living wall are being monitored, in partnership with the BCIT Centre for Architectural Ecology – Collaborations in Green Roofs and Living Walls to provide real-time regional data on the environmental and economic benefits of these innovative technologies. Monitoring includes a measure of rainwater retention and runoff reduction and temperature and energy statistics.”

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IMPROVING WHERE WE LIVE: “Land development often interferes with water balance by reducing forest cover and increasing imperviousness, without preserving the natural pathways water follows to reach creeks,” wrote Elizabeth Quayle, Town of Gibsons


“One of the primary challenges local governments face is that there are often multiple organizational bodies operating across a single watershed, each with their own, misaligned, policies. So, even though these organizations may firmly believe in the science behind a whole-systems, water balance approach, it becomes nearly impossible to achieve the integrated, continuity of practice required to put that approach into place on the ground,” wrote Elizabeth Quayle.

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“A core message of restorative development is that we can decrease our destructive footprint while at the same time increasing our restorative footprint,” stated Storm Cunningham, author of The Restoration Economy & global thought leader


“During the last two decades of the twentieth century, we failed to notice a turning point of immense significance,” wrote Storm Cunningham. “New development – the development mode that has dominated the past three centuries – lost significant ‘market share’ to another mode:restorative development. How could we miss a story like that? The major driver of economic growth in the twenty-first century will be redeveloping our nations, revitalizing our cities, and rehabilitating and expanding our ecosystems.”

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