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Rainwater Management

Download British Columbia guidance documents. Learn about the guiding philosophy and tools for implementing ‘sustainable watershed systems, through asset management’. Be inspired by success stories. Understand why it is necessary to manage the complete spectrum of ‘rainfall days’ in a year, preserve or replicate the pathways by which water reaches streams, and so mimic flow-duration distribution. The emphasis herein is on the drainage runoff side of the Water Balance distribution.

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DOWNLOAD BEYOND THE GUIDEBOOK 2022: “Because local governments need real numbers to deliver outcomes, we landed on a concept which we call the Riparian Deficit. This is a measure of land use intrusion into the streamside protection zone,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair of the Ecological Accounting Process (released June 2022)


“Now that we have landed on the Riparian Deficit concept, we are able to reflect on the two issues which provided context for the journey: first, engineering measures are insufficient for stream and riparian protection; and secondly, the link to municipal asset management has not been clear. To reach the destination, we had to address and show how to overcome four challenges: one, a lack of measurable metrics; two, confusion over what is an asset versus a service; three, ignorance about how to quantify the financial value of natural assets with real numbers; and four, numerous one-off projects that fail to build improved asset management practice,” stated Tim Pringle.

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DOWNLOAD: Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia


“Released in 2002, the Guidebook provides a framework for effective rainwater management throughout the province. This tool for local governments presents a methodology for moving from planning to action that focuses on implementing early action where it is most needed,” states Laura Maclean. “The Guidebook approach is designed to eliminate the root cause of negative ecological and property impacts of rainwater runoff by addressing the complete spectrum of rainfall events. The Guidebook approach contrasts with conventional ‘flows-and-pipes’ stormwater management.”

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Water Balance Model – On Tour!


“Have a look at some of the Water Balance Model slideshow presentations that have been made to industry and government groups starting in 2001. This includes some of the early presentations on the Water Balance Methodology that helped pave the way for the paradigm-shift from 'peak flow thinking' to 'volume-based thinking'. The many presentations created awareness and influenced expectations,” stated Ted van der Gulik.

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INSTILL A CULTURE THAT SUPPORTS CHAMPIONS: The “blue link” rain garden is symbolic of the transformational change which has taken root in the Township in the 21st century as designing with nature became the ‘new normal’.


Resource protection – for groundwater supply and fisheries habitat – is the original driver for implementing ‘green infrastructure’ in Langley. Township staff have learned and adapted. Langley has led by example and implemented a ‘water balance’ approach to large-scale residential projects. Moving ahead on a ‘green’ platform gained momentum as standard practice evolved through ‘learn by doing’ experience. “The term ‘blue link’ describes the purpose of the current drainage standard in Langley. It replaced the traditional curb-and-gutter detail for all but arterial roadways,” stated Ramin Seifi.

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KEEP IT SIMPLE, PRACTICAL AND IMPLEMENTABLE: “Drill down and make your plans as simple as possible. So simple that you could bring multiple, multi-year plans forward at the same time, regardless of the resources you have on hand,” stated Melony Burton, Manager of Infrastructure Planning with the City of Port Coquitlam in Metro Vancouver


“When I looked at the history of the DCC Bylaw updates, staff had tried to take it forward several times. They would almost get to the finish line, then trip and fall. Each time, it seems that they started fresh instead of looking at why the previous attempts had failed. The first thing I did was look at WHY THEY FAILED. They tripped over being too complicated or getting sidetracked. Keeping it simple and basic is what got the DCC Bylaw over the line. In five years, we can update it and make it more complex if we need to. Now we at least have an updated bylaw adopted,” stated Melony Burton.

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SOLUTIONS TO COMPLEX PROBLEMS REQUIRE DEEP KNOWLEDGE: “It is mentoring and actively passing on knowledge that allows complex problems to be solved. It will take time. But with a long-term strategy, you will get there,” stated Robert Hicks, a career engineer-planner in local government in the Metro Vancouver region


“The notion of a superficial understanding explains the challenge that I am seeing. There are post-2000 graduate engineers coming out of university who are familiar with green infrastructure ideas and concepts, but they do not know the details behind them: details that they did not have to know at university or in their previous jobs. Sure, they understand rainwater management ideas and concepts at a high level. But without the background and history, can they really appreciate why certain targets and approaches were selected while others were not?” stated Robert Hicks.

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GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE INNOVATOR: “Jim Dumont’s focus is on the analytical tools that produce the numbers that make the case for innovation,” stated Rémi Dubé, former Drainage Planning Manager with the City of Surrey


“There is a need for a new approach to hydrologic design, Jim Dumont advocated in the mid-2000s. So, Fergus Creek became the pilot for a runoff-based approach because duration of discharge links directly to stream health,” stated Rémi Dubé. “In 2006, when Surrey hosted the showcasing green innovation innovation series, Jim and I said that Fergus Creek is going beyond the guidebook. The phrase stuck. Fergus led to the Beyond the Guidebook Initiative. Jim also maintained that what the watershed will look like in future should drive the approach to rainwater management.”

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FROM PILOT PROJECTS TO WATERSHED-BASED OBJECTIVES: “With completion of the Fergus Creek watershed plan, we were at a point where we could integrate engineering, planning, biology, geomorphology and recreation to influence the greening of the built environment,” stated Rémi Dubé, a green infrastructure champion and innovator with the City of Surrey


“In the 2000s, Fergus Creek was the first of the new generation of watershed plans in the City of Surrey. The Fergus Creek plan showed why and how contiguous greenways make rainwater management easier and provide the land we need to actually achieve multi-purpose outcomes. In 2009, we framed the nature of the paradigm-shift with this statement: Surrey is moving beyond green infrastructure pilot projects to a broader watersheds objectives approach. From this precedent emerged the framework for Surrey’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy,” stated Rémi Dubé.

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DESIGNING WITH NATURE IN SURREY TO CREATE A LIVEABLE COMMUNITY WHILE PROTECTING STREAM HEALTH: “We treat our watercourses like the gift that they are. We try to do the best we can with how we grow and develop the community,” stated Samantha Ward, Drainage Manager with the City of Surrey


“There are so many benefits associated with watercourses that go well beyond moving water from A to B. This understanding is reflected in our Biodiversity Conservation Strategy. Without our watercourses, Surrey would feel different. It would not be the place that it is. In the uplands, it is the biodiversity piece. And going beyond just setting a corridor to ask, how can we enhance that corridor to maximize the biodiversity value it brings. On the coast and in the lowlands, we have been focusing on flood resiliency and adaptation,” stated Samantha Ward.

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DESIGN WITH NATURE TO RESTORE STREAM HEALTH: “We need to be open to change and learning from nature. We also cannot work in silos. Our best progress comes from working together and solving issues together,” stated Carrie Baron, former Drainage Manager with the City of Surrey


“You observe what happens. And then you can try to apply that understanding in your simulations or your designs when building something. Look at things! Do not just sit in a room with a computer. You have got to be out there watching and trying to understand what is happening in nature. I describe this as research with a purpose. In the Sustainability Charter (2008) we made a commitment that the City would not just ask developers to do things. We said we would do those things on City developments as well. And we would test them at our own cost,” stated Carrie Baron.

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A SHORT HISTORY OF STORMWATER MANAGEMENT EVOLUTI0N IN SURREY: “By the time I retired in 2008, Surrey was ready to move beyond pilot projects and set watershed-based objectives and targets,” stated Paul Ham,former General Manager of Engineering, City of Surrey


“As years pass, we tend to forget or take the early innovation for granted. We learned a lot from our East Clayton experience, and we adapted our approach in subsequent Surrey neighbourhoods. The East Clayton experience gave us confidence to implement new green infrastructure objectives in the next two plans. The Fergus Creek watershed plan followed. It was the inspiration for going beyond the Stormwater Guidebook. Surrey provided core content for the seminar that launched the provincial initiative in 2007,” stated Paul Ham.

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METRO VANCOUVER’S LIQUID WASTE MANAGEMENT PLAN HAS TWO COMPONENTS: “The big-ticket component that gets the headlines is sewage treatment. Equally important is the other component. Green infrastructure is the elephant in the room. It is all about the health of our stream systems,” stated Darrell Mussatto, former mayor of North Vancouver City (October 2023)


“You get elected, and you start to learn. And you become inspired by what you see happening. I remember when the Fish Protection Act passed in 1997, and municipalities were required to have setbacks in creeks. This happened in my first term on council and was quite a challenge for us. This experience was my context when I served on and later chaired the Metro Vancouver Utilities Committee a decade later. The region’s Integrated Liquid Waste and Resource Management Plan (LWMP) was another learning experience for me,” stated Darrell Mussatto.

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LOOK AT RAINFALL DIFFERENTLY: “In addition to stormwater management, the ‘sponge city’ model brings other benefits, including increased biodiversity, reduced heat island effect, attractive public spaces and more exposure to nature,” wrote Morgan Lowrie of the Canadian Press (October 2023)


“From green roofs in Toronto to Vancouver’s rain city strategy, Canadian cities are looking to become ‘sponges’ in order to help mitigate some of the effects of extreme rainfall events. The goal is to reverse some of the harm done by decades of car-oriented urban development, which involved replacing natural spaces that soak up water with impermeable infrastructure such as roads and parking lots. Green infrastructure can be incorporated into a landscape in many ways. Across Canada, cities appear to be jumping on board,” wrote Morgan Lowrie.

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