HOW WATER REACHES A STREAM: “The ‘Water Balance’ – what do urban drainage practitioners mean, really, when they use that phrase,” asks Jim Dumont rhetorically
“The ‘Water Balance is a term that has been widely adopted by many; however, there are also many different meanings and methods for its application. In this article, I describe four different approaches to a so-called ‘water balance approach’,” stated Jim Dumont. “For each approach, I provide a very simple introduction so that the reader will have a sense of what each approach involves. My purpose is to provide a contrast with the approach we have been developing and adopting in British Columbia.”
SMART DEVELOPMENT: “The Town of Gibsons is recognized as a leader in sustainable planning and development. In many respects, the genesis can be traced back to the SmartStorm Forum Series which set in motion a chain of events that are still reverberating in British Columbia,” stated Barry Janyk, a former Mayor (1999-2011)
When the SmartStorm Forum Series introduced the term 'smart development' in 1999, the goal was to advance implementation of an integrated and balanced approach to land use. “The response to the SmartStorm Forum Series was simply overwhelming,” recalls Barry Janyk, “For the first event, held in Nanaimo, the doors had to be closed when the surge of last-minute registrations reached the seating capacity of the venue. When we decided to host the second event on the Sunshine Coast, the skeptics asked me who would come to the Sunshine Coast. Well, they did come and they came from far and wide, including Ontario.”
“Nothing will provide 100 per cent protection against the potential losses from urban floods, but planning ahead reduces the odds that you will be flooded and may reduce your costs when a flood does occur,” says Michael Drescher, University of Waterloo
“Wild weather seems increasingly widespread these days. Cities are especially vulnerable to extreme weather, meaning that many of us will end up paying for the damage it can cause. But how much we pay — and when — is largely up to us. We could, for example, pay now to prepare ourselves and limit future damage, or we can pay later to repair our properties and restore the environment,” wrote Michael Drescher.
BASEMENT FLOODING PROTECTION PROGRAM: As climate experts forecast more frequent extreme rain events, Toronto is working towards protecting properties by modernizing its storm drainage system
In Toronto, the Basement Flooding Protection Program was initially approved in 2006, a year after Canada’s sixth most expensive natural catastrophe, which was a massive rain storm Aug. 19, 2005. “Basement flood protection projects include sewers, storm sewer tunnels, inlet control devices (intended to slow the drain of rain into the sewer system) and catch basins. The city is also installing underground holding tanks, which are essentially massive storage facilities that allow for storm sewer systems to catch up when there is a heavy rainfall event,” stated Glenn McGillivray.
EDITORIAL: Is Stormwater Management the Key to Greener, More Resilient and Healthier Communities? – “Taxpayers can get far more bang for their public buck by investing in widespread green infrastructure implementation than huge holding tanks to capture stormwater,” says Steven Peck
“When we address stormwater management by investing in green infrastructure solutions, we are also able to address other pressing issues in our communities, such as the urban heat island effect which contributes to air quality pollution, the need for employment, access to food, and the unhealthy lack of green space,” wrote Steven Peck. “In many cases, green infrastructure can also deliver value by offsetting or right sizing the use of grey infrastructure.”
VIDEO: “Maximum Extent Practicable, or MEP, has become the definitional driver for a lot of what we do,” said Andy Reese, engineer and writer who coined the term Voodoo Hydrology in 2006 to explain the pitfalls inherent in urban drainage practice
“Years ago I was privileged to travel around the US with EPA putting on seminars,” stated Andy Reese in 2011. “Three off-the-cuff words have probably have had the biggest impact in influencing land design of any sort of regulatory program that ever was, and perhaps that ever will be. Those three words were maximum, extent and practicable. Back then, none of those words were capitalized. They were just a made-up term. But MEP is now taking on green infrastructure overtones, sustainability overtones, LID overtones, and on and on.”
EDITORIAL: When does a road become a river? Why hydrologists and water planners need to move beyond averages – Australasian Journal of Water Resources (July 2018)
A river can be defined as ‘A large natural stream of water flowing in a channel to the sea, a lake or another river’ or more simply as ‘A large quantity of a flowing substance’. Obviously, under the second definition a road could be defined as a river and potentially under the first if again our interpretation of ‘natural’ is as flexible as current common usage! Why is such a seemingly silly and perhaps confusing question important?” stated Katherine Daniell.
Restore Watershed Hydrology and Re-Set the Ecological Baseline: “A goal of the IREI program is to embed state-of-the-art hydrology in engineering ‘standard practice’,” says Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability
“Among land and drainage practitioners, how water gets to a stream and how long it takes is not well understood. Unintended consequences of this failure to ‘get it right’ include degraded urban streams, more flooding, more stream erosion, less streamflow when needed most, and an unfunded infrastructure liability,” states Kim Stephens. “In 2006, American engineer and textbook author Andy Reese coined the term voodoo hydrology to both describe drainage practice and draw attention to the need for changing the way drainage engineers practice their trade.”
An Interview with Peter Law (November 2017): “Our goal is to educate people in the watershed surrounding Shelly Creek. We will be conducting ‘kitchen table talks’ to educate people on the effects of excess water running through the stream.”
The Shelly Creek experience foreshadows that an informed stream stewardship sector may prove to be a difference-maker that accelerates implementation of the ‘whole-system, water balance’ approach in British Columbia. “We’ve got some issues around trying to slow the water down. As lands get developed, we ditch and we drain everything and that moves water into the channel faster and pushes it into this place. As a site is developed or cleared, you’re actually looking at how you can slow the water down from that site, not drain it,” stated Peter Law.
Green Infrastructure is a Resiliency Investment that Pays Dividends: “New York City can serve as a model for American coastal cities looking for ways to mitigate the effects of climate change,” says Carter Strickland, New York state director of The Trust for Public Land
With 520 miles of coastline, there are more residents living in high-risk flood zones in New York City than any other city in the United States. “As New York comes to grip with this new reality, the city, civic institutions, and community groups are building parks and playgrounds that incorporate plants, permeable pavement, greenroofs, green roofs, trees, bioswales, and rainwater catchment systems and other ‘green infrastructure’. This is important because cities are hotter than surrounding areas, and their residents are more vulnerable to heat waves, one of the greatest public health threats from climate change,” wrote Carter Strickland.