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Smaller Hydrologic Footprint

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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“Sometimes the scale of change seems overwhelming. But little changes, carried out by a lot of people is a positive move in the right direction as we adapt to living on a changing world,” says Bob McDonald, host of Quirks & Quarks on CBC Radio, on commenting on a new report from the Intact Centre titled Too Small to Fail


“The biggest contributor to flooding is the fact that excess water from heavy storms has nowhere to go,” wrote Bob McDonald. “As our urban areas grow, we have covered what was once porous forest floor or plant-covered land with pavement, sidewalks, driveways and patios. One solution is to make the urban landscape more porous, so the water can sink into the ground rather than accumulate on the streets and in basements. It is a harsh reality that we need to adapt to a changing planet.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2010 FROM RAIN TO RESOURCE WORKSHOP: “The Water Balance Model is a response to the need to quickly test alternative green infrastructure techniques prior to implementation,” stated Jim Dumont


“The WBM allows the user to quickly establish the existing, or the predevelopment, base line that will become the standard used to measure the performance of future development scenarios during the planning and design of a project. This allows the user to test various methods to establish the easiest and best ways to achieve the most desirable vision of the future for the Site, the Development, or the Watershed,” stated Jim Dumont.

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FLASHBACK TO 2006: “The Design with Nature Game Show gets workshop participants thinking about real things, on the ground, so that they can begin to see how use of the Water Balance Model will help them,” explained Richard Boase


The Design with Nature Game Show was one of the features of the training workshop hosted by UBC-Okanagan University.“It is fascinating to see how excited and ‘into it’ people get after a few minutes. The irony is that the grand prize is one hour of personal tutoring by me by phone. Just imagine what they would be like if there was a real prize! It just goes to show how important it is to make a computer modeling workshop fun. If people have fun, they will get more out of the day and perhaps some of the philosophical stuff will actually stick,” stated Richard Boase.

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