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Rainwater Management

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GREEN CITY, CLEAN WATERS: Commencing in 2011, Philadelphia’s 25-year program is creating a citywide mosaic of green infrastructure to capture the first inch of rainfall and restore the water balance, one “greened acre” at a time!


Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia’s favorite son, described his city’s stormwater problem well: By “covering a ground plot with buildings and pavements, which carry off most of the rain and prevent its soaking into the Earth and renewing and purifying the Springs … the water of wells must gradually grow worse, and in time be unfit for use as I find has happened in all old cities.” But Ben Franklin’s town has decided to take the lead in undoing this ever-more costly and outdated system.

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FLASHBACK TO 2010: “Home Depot in the City of Courtenay established a BC precedent when it implemented a deep deep-well system for injecting rainwater runoff and recharging the underlying groundwater aquifer,” stated the City’s Kevin Lagan when he shared the story with a provincial audience at the ‘From Rain to Resource Workshop’ hosted by the Okanagan Basin Water Board


“In 2003, the Home Depot development application in the City of Courtenay was to build a store and parking lot covering 90% of a four hectare second growth coniferous forest property,” stated Kevin Lagan. “The City required that post-development rainwater and stormwater flows leaving the site were equal to or less than the pre-development flows. For this property that was effectively zero.” Kevin Lagan described how the developer met this requirement of replacing a forest with impervious areas, and that the solution was successful.

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FLASHBACK TO 2010: Philadelphia Urban Water Leadership Conference represents a “watershed moment” in the United States because it followed British Columbia’s lead in linking green infrastructure practices to water sustainability outcomes


“The Clean Water America Alliance brought together green infrastructure leaders from around the United States,” recalls Howard Neukrig. “They shared innovations, strategies, and best practices, for making green infrastructure the centerpiece of the urban water world. A number of themes emerged during the conference, including: Green infrastructure must work within the greater quilt of water management that includes traditional gray infrastructure.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2010: “The East Clayton development in Surrey was the first development in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia that utilized Low Impact Development techniques and facilities,” explained Jim Dumont at the Rain to Resource Workshop hosted by the Okanagan Basin Water Board


“The need to embrace LID practices arose from the need to prevent further increases in damage to both the environment and the agricultural community resulting from the increases in runoff from urban areas. The Neighbourhood Concept Plan (NCP) established rainfall capture objectives for maintaining the predevelopment runoff rates and volumes. The first phase of development brought the need to create calculation methods to verify that the designs complied with the NCP requirements,” stated Jim Dumont.

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RISK-BASED ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR STORMWATER INFRASTRUCTURE: “Communities must determine the desired level of service that they want the drainage system to achieve….and the real cost of providing that level of service,” wrote Hal Clarkson, Certified Asset Management professional


“Our community officials and citizens often do not understand how a drainage system works or the effort required to keep it functioning at an acceptable level of service. As an industry, we have done a very poor job of educating our community on stormwater infrastructure issues, especially on the connection between cost of service and level of service. There is an answer, but it requires a shift in how we as a public works industry do business—and, even more so, it requires a shift in our industry’s mindset,” stated Hal Clarkson.

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REINVENTING THE TRADITIONAL VEGETATED ROOF FOR RAINWATER DETENTION: “A detention layer in vegetated roof systems helps manage the excess rainwater runoff onsite by mimicking friction found in watersheds and aquifers,” states Sasha Aguilera in an informative reference on green roof concepts and technologies


“Put simply: the modern vegetated roof is designed to drain extremely fast. That is not to say no one has considered alternatives,” states Sasha Aguilera. “Slowing down water to create detention has been tried in vegetated roofs, albeit with mixed success. There are a few examples of great success, but replicability and widespread adoption have been difficult to achieve. This is unsurprising, since creating detention in a thin vegetated system is challenging. However, innovations are changing that equation.”

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New York City’s $US 1.9 Billion Program to Combat Flooding includes Hundreds of Rain Gardens in the Borough of Queens


“Southeast Queens has been plagued for generations with flooding. There are many factors that are the cause of this problem; but its residents have still suffered with their homes and streets being overrun with water whenever there is a storm,” Community Board 13 District Manager Mark McMillan said. “Rain gardens are an example of an environmentally friendly way that both beautifies communities while providing drainage in flood prone areas.”

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USE GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE TO KEEP RAIN ON-SITE: Toronto moves closer to making parking lot owners pay for stormwater management (November 2019)


“Currently the cost of managing stormwater runoff is borne by businesses and industries through city water use fees — the more water they use, the higher the bill — but that doesn’t always accurately reflect how much stormwater runoff is created by the businesses,” wrote Francine Kupon. “A parking lot, on the other hand, typically doesn’t consume any water and so doesn’t get a water bill at all, while still contributing to the problem of stormwater runoff because of the large paved areas they operate.”

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BUILDING RAIN GARDENS IN THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY ERA: “We hope that as the broader community learns about the North Shore Rain Garden Project, this awareness will encourage homeowners to take an active role and see the potential for rain gardens in their own backyards,” stated Dr. Joanna Ashworth, Project Director


“Community engagement and green infrastructure are powerful partners for building climate resiliency. Our vision is to scale up this work and encourage our partners to embrace this winning partnership as significant levers for change,” stated Dr. Joanna Ashworth. “Municipalities often miss the opportunity to involve their communities in the design, location selection, and construction of the rain gardens. This involvement also provides important opportunities to educate and engage the public in stewarding this remarkable green technology.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2007: “RAINwater management is about protecting streams, not how much volume can be infiltrated,” stated Corino Salomi, Area Manager, Department of Fisheries & Oceans, when the Beyond the Guidebook program was launched to initiate a course correction in how the DFO Urban Stormwater Guidelines were being implemented in British Columbia


“It helps to look back to understand how we got to here. In 2000, DFO released Urban Stormwater Guidelines and Best Management Practices for Protection of Fish and Fish Habitat. By 2007, however, we had concerns about how the document was being interpreted and applied. ‘Beyond the Guidebook 2007’ represented the initial course correction,” stated Corinio Salomi. The Partnership for Water Sustainability has since released two more in the Beyond the Guidebook Series – in 2010 and 2015.

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