FLASHBACK TO 2006: At the Water in the City Conference, Tom Liptan explained why City of Portland coined the RAIN acronym as an alternative to 'Stormwater' Management'

Note to Reader:

Tom Liptan is one of the earliest champions of greenroofing in the United States, in particular the Portland, Oregon area, where greenroofs are more commonly referred to as ecoroofs.  Tom is a landscape architect and the Ecoroof Technical Manager in the Sustainable Stormwater Division  with the City of Portland, His early experimentation with his own garage ecoroof (1996) spawned the greenroof movement in Portland.

Tom Liptan was a contributor to Handbook of Water Sensitive Planning and Design, Robert Francis, editor (Lewis Publishers, 2002), and Green Roofs, Ecological Design and Construction, Earth Pledge, Siena Chrisman, editor (Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 2005). A book titled Rain Gardens by Dunnett and Clayton, 2007, has a dedication to his efforts.

In September 2006, Tom Liptan was a featured speaker at the Water in the City Conference, held in Victoria. 

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Integrating Water with the
Urban Fabric

Tom Liptan has been a driving force behind the research and development of new urban techniques, codes and policies in Portland. The success and recognition of these approaches has spread internationally. His work has been recognized in various media, he has received numerous awards and has served as a keynote 3TomLiptan_120pspeaker at many conferences.

“Most communities have developed in similar ways regardless of climate. Design principles have facilitated swift conveyance of stormwater and the pollutants it carries into receiving waters. This practice and other unfortunate consequences of past design must change,” states Tom Liptan.

Tom Liptan’s featured presentation in September 2006 described the wide ranging measures underway in the City of Portland to mimic nature’s methods of treating stormwater. This provocative session was promoted as a ‘must’ for those who are rethinking the way in which their communities handle water.

Moving Towards Integrated Solutions

2006_Kim Stephens_120p“The language of drainage practitioners is in transition and is being simplified so that there will be a clearer public understanding of the suite of source control options  for capturing rain where it falls. Changing the language is part and parcel of implementing ‘integrated solutions’ that are landscape-based,” stated Kim Stephens when he introduced Tom Liptan.

Tom Liptan informed his Canadian audience that the City Portland has coined the acronym RAIN to contrast contemporary ‘rainwater management’ with traditional ‘stormwater management’, where:


His presentation described the wide ranging measures the city is taking to mimic nature’s methods of treating stormwater.

To Learn More:

Download Integrating Water in the Urban Fabric, September 2006 to view the feature presentation by Tom Liptan at the Water in the City Conference.

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RAIN acronym promotes change in thinking, explained Tom Liptan

When he began his 90-minute presentation, Tom Liptan commented that: “It is great to see that the Province of British Columbia is proactively encouraging the drainage community to start using the all-encompassing Rainwater Management as an alternative to single-objective Stormwater Management.

“The language-shift that you have initiated in British Columbia is what we would like to see happen in Portland. This is one reason why the Bureau of Environmental Services has coined the RAIN acronym. We believe this will help promote changes in thinking and practice so that we achieve beneficial outcomes.”

To Learn More:

Read FLASHBACK TO 2009: Stormwater Management, Low Impact Development, Sustainable Drainage, Green Infrastructure, RAINwater Management…. what is an appropriate term to use?

Development Impacts

“Most cities develop in very similar ways, regardless of climate. Vegetation and soil are removed and covered with impervious surfaces in the form of rooftops and pavement. These surfaces then facilitate the undesirable effect of rainwater runoff, which carries urban pollutants to receiving waters and infrastructure systems.

“The basic things we design, build, and do, in our cities are the cause of many health, economic and environmental concerns, contributing to air quality degradation, urban heat island effects, human health impairment, energy consumption, water pollution, loss of fauna, flora and aquatic life.

Design with Nature

“But it doesn’t have to be this way. Designing with and re-introducing natural elements such as soil, water, and vegetation on rooftops, streets, sidewalks, and parking lots is showing promised in Portland, Oregon.

“These design techniques are being tested on city streets and private development. Monitoring the results show efficient management of precipitation and rainwater runoff is being achieved.

Rainwater Management

“Traditional stormwater management has a narrow scope, is event-based, and only considers a handful of runoff events that might occur in a given year. Rainwater management, on other hand, accounts for all the rainfall-days that occur each year.

“Rainwater management is all about developing in a way that restores the function and value of trees, soil and open space in our communities. If we develop today with long-term sustainability in mind, future generations can enjoy a vibrant city and clean and healthy rivers, instead of bearing the burden of our actions”, concluded Liptan.

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