FLASHBACK TO 2011: From Stormwater to Rainwater – POLIS Project and University of Victoria Environmental Law Clinic released "Peeling Back the Pavement"

Create a Legacy: From Stormwater City to Rainwater City

In October 2011, the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance in partnership with the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre released Peeling Back the Pavement: A Blueprint for Reinventing Rainwater Management in Canada’s Communities.

This was an instalment in the POLIS water sustainability handbook series for decision makers, policy analysts, community leaders, and water managers.

To Learn More:

To download a copy from the POLIS website, click on Peeling Back the Pavement: A Blueprint for Reinventing Rainwater Management in Canada’s Communities.

Make the Transition

Co-authored by Susanne Porter-Bopp, Oliver M. Brandes, and Calvin Sandborn, Peeling Back the Pavement outlines the perceived problems with conventional stormwater management and examines potential solutions for moving toward sustainability.

The document provides a lay person’s perspective on what it means to transition from the notion of a “Stormwater City” to one that is described as “Rainwater City”. To this end, the document provides a broad-brush picture of current and possible future approaches in order to stimulate a Canada-wide discussion.

Oliver-Brandes_2010_120p“Rethinking the way we deal with rain and snowmelt in our cities means replacing conventional pipe-and-convey systems with an approach that recognizes rainwater as a valuable resource while, at the same time, reducing runoff volume and improving runoff quality,” states Oliver Brandes, co-author and POLIS Co-Director.

“Peeling Back the Pavement provides a comprehensive action plan outlining the crucial steps necessary for changing the way communities govern stormwater. The blueprint describes measures that local and senior levels of government can take to move from the current system of stormwater management to one based on rainwater management.”

“The handbook is alive with examples and case studies demonstrating leading practice and on-the-ground results from across Canada and beyond. A main focus of the handbook is the fragmented responsibility for fresh water across and within jurisdictions—one of the greatest challenges to reinventing rainwater management in Canada,” emphasizes Oliver Brandes.

What’s the Goal?

To obtain an understanding of why and how the approach to rainwater management in British Columbia differs from that in the United States and elsewhere in Canada, click on Rainwater Management in a Watershed Context – What’s the Goal? to access an article published by Stormwater Magazine.

Jim-Dumont_2011_120pThe approach we have taken in British Columbia differs due to the nature of the root problems being solved. The critical issue in British Columbia is the damage and loss of habitat caused by development and erosion of the headwater streams,” states Jim Dumont, article co-author and Engineering Applications Authority for the BC-based Water Balance Model Partnership.

Kim Stephens_2011_MED Seminar_120p“While land use and infrastructure professionals are using a similar vocabulary on both sides of the border, our goals appear different. The apparent divergence has significant implications for rainwater management in a watershed context,” adds Kim Stephens, article co-author and Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.

Re-Inventing Rainwater Management

The POLIS Water Sustainability Project (WSP) team believes that making headway on a more progressive approach to rainwater management requires dealing with the thorny and complex problems associated with governance. An integrated watershed-based approach offers significant opportunity to create truly sustainable communities that can protect the natural water cycle now and into the future.

The inspiration for “Peeling Back the Pavement” was a report titled Re-Inventing Rainwater Management: A Strategy to Protect Health and Restore Resources in the Capital Region,

Released by the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Victoria in February 2010, “the report describes the environmental and stream health problems in the Calvin-Sandborn_100x123pCapital Region that are the legacy of an obsolete 19th century stormwater management system—a system that fails to respect natural systems and water cycles,” according to Calvin Sandborn.

“Re-Inventing Rainwater Management documents how ‘green’ rainwater management has now been adopted by engineers, developers, planners and governments across North America.”

To Learn More:

The resource was launched as part of the WSP’s Creating a Blue Dialogue webinar series. Guest speakers included lead author Susanne Porter-Bopp and Patrick Lucey, aquatic ecologist.

In this webinar, the guest speakers discuss the need for a new paradigm of rainwater management in Canada’s urban environments and outline positive policies and initiatives already underway in communities across the country and beyond.

To view a recording of the webinar, click on A Tale of Two Cities.

Electronic copies of Peeling Back the Pavement: A Blueprint for Reinventing Rainwater Management in Canada’s Communities are available for download on the WSP website.