Watershed Case Profile Series: Rain Gardens Help Restore Nature to Urban Areas in Delta
NOTE TO READER:
Road rights-of-way account for one-third of the land area of a typical urban watershed. Through its rain garden program, Delta municipality is demonstrating how to implement an environmentally adaptive approach to an important element of community design – that is, the streetscape. Released in January 2015 by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, Delta’s story is told in Creating the Future in The Corporation of Delta: Rain Gardens Help Restore Nature. This is the 4th in the Watershed Case Profile Series.
Creating the Future in Delta, One Rain Garden at a Time
Delta has some 500 kilometres of roadways. In 2005, the municipality embarked upon a long-term initiative to incrementally improve the urban landscape though a streetscape program that embodies three objectives: build a greener community, adapt to a changing climate, and protect Delta’s natural watercourses. Delta’s planning and engineering staff are working toward achieving a healthy watershed legacy.
Program Demonstrates Shared Responsibility
“Delta is making ‘green infrastructure’ a standard practice in our community. These are no longer just ‘pilot projects’. When we re-build roads in Delta, streetscape enhancement is part of the capital budget. In addition, each year we invest in two or three community rain gardens,” states Hugh Fraser, Delta’s Deputy Director of Engineering. He is a rain garden champion; and his commitment has been critical to the success of the initiative.
Shared responsibility is a foundation piece for Delta’s rain garden program. “Everyone in the process, students, designers, managers and constructors, must understand and care about the big-picture goal. This requires an ongoing educational process that instills an ethic. This is a team effort. Nothing would have happened without all working together and continuing to work together.”
“Creating a watershed health legacy will ultimately depend on how well we are able to achieve rain water management improvements on both public and private sides of a watershed. There is a huge up-side if the private sector embraces their contribution to shared responsibility.”
The Story Behind the Story
Community leader Deborah Jones, the volunteer Rain Gardens Coordinator, is a driving force behind the “top-down and bottom-up” approach that defines Delta’s rain garden program. “The program came about through a fortunate confluence of personalities, interests and skills – it is not something that a community can necessarily just decide to do, and presto, it happens,” says Deborah Jones.
“Remove any one of the individuals or organizations who played roles in the process, and North Delta’s school and community rain gardens either would not have happened at all, or would have been much less successful.”
Learn by Doing, Adapt and Improve:
“Delta has implemented a rain garden construction program in partnership with local elementary schools. The ultimate objective is to improve fish habitat in Delta’s waterways,” reports Dr. Sarah Howie, Delta’s urban environmental designer for streetscapes and natural projects.
“A curriculum-based ‘Rain Gardeners’ program for Grades 4 and 5 students has educated a generation of students about watersheds, how they work, and why rain gardens can help improve aquatic habitat. Students experience caring for nature by maintaining rain gardens.”
“After almost a decade of designing and building rain gardens in North Delta, we are still experimenting. On every project, we try something different. Each time we learn something new from experience, and the next time we apply that experience. In short, Delta’s design process is one of continuous improvement. Council support, designers willing to be innovative, and the delivery team working together have been absolutely crucial to building commitment.”
TO LEARN MORE:
Delta is home to a population of approximately 100,000 people in the Metro Vancouver region of British Columbia. Delta comprises three distinct urban communities (North Delta, Ladner and Tsawwassen) within an agricultural sea. Delta’’s story is a case study illustration of how a “design with nature” ethic has taken root in local government in British Columbia.
To download a copy of the fourth in the Watershed Case Profile Series, click on Creating the Future in The Corporation of Delta: Rain Gardens Help Restore Nature.