Metro Vancouver Close Up (Video Series): Delta Rain Gardens Put Precipitation on a Slow Road to the Ocean


Note to Reader:

Metro Vancouver Close Up is a video series about local government and community sustainability initiatives which support regional goals.  It is hosted by environmental leader Dagmar Timmer. The series profiles member municipalities and makes the connections between regional goals and aspirations and how these are implemented and enhanced at the local level.

To learn more about Metro Vancouver Close Up, click here to access the homepage.

Rain Gardens Help Restore Nature to Urban Areas

“Rain Gardens capture and clean rainwater and keep runoff  from going straight into storm sewers. In Delta, they are being created with the collaboration of the municipality and volunteers, in a wide variety of locations from parking lots to schools,” reports Dagmar Timmer.

Pavement and Precipitation Don’t Mix

Water is an important component of soil, along with minerals, organic matter, and air.  But paved roads and structures limit rainwater’s contact with soil. In Delta, the way water flows out of this parking lot is being re-engineered.

sara-howie-rain-garden_2015“We will be excavating a long swale and then cutting holes in the curb and then the water from the parking lot will run through those holes into the swale,” explains Sarah Howie, an Urban Environmental Designer for the Corporation of Delta.

The swale is the beginnings of a concave garden called a rain garden.

“The idea is that a rain garden captures water from impervious areas like parking lots,” says Howie.

“It does many things, to clean the water, to cool the water,” says Delta mayor Lois Jackson. “And it all goes to the place we want it to go and that’s to help out the habitat.”

A Trickle is Better Than a Flood

Rainwater that slowly seeps into the soil is preferred over a storm sewer. Deborah Jones, the Rain Gardens Coordinator for the Cougar Creek Streamkeepers, explains why.

Deborah Jones2_120p“In nature the water would fall on the ground and anything not used by plants and animals would trickle slowly to the creek. Whereas in our pipes systems, the drains take that water, pipe it underground, and deliver it directly into the creek. So it’s dirtier and there’s more of it arriving all at once. “

Rain and rain gardens are ecosystem services that enhance quality of life in the region.

“Water falls for free from the sky,” notes Jones. “It’s a very important resource and we waste it, straight down a drain and out to streams and then ultimately the ocean. So, much better to get that water into the ground.”

Good for Kids and Creatures

Education is a key part of the rain gardens initiative according to Howie.

“Delta has installed 10 rain gardens at elementary schools and the streamkeepers have actually installed another 7 rain gardens with high school students in North Delta.”

Lois-Jackson_120p“It’s just a win-win all the way around,” says Mayor Lois Jackson. “And it really leads into the future where urban areas can still be good places of habitat for fish and birds and bees and all those creatures that we seem to miss in a lot of urban areas.”

To Learn More:

To download a PDF 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.