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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
FACILITATING THE PARADIGM-SHIFT FROM STORMWATER TO RAINWATER: “Before the Water Balance Model for British Columbia was developed, the missing link urban hydrology was a tool that could easily quantify the benefits, at a neighbourhood or watershed scale, achieved by reducing rainwater runoff volume at the site level,” wrote Kim Stephens in an article published by Innovation Magazine (June 2004)
Rainwater management is at the heart of a contemporary approach to land development in balance with the natural environment. In 2004, Kim Stephens provided this perspective: “BC stormwater criteria and tools are receiving increasing recognition across North America because of their unique emphasis on solving both flooding and environmental problems at the source. This rethinking of traditional approaches to urban hydrology is helping to achieve higher levels of stream protection by integrating land use planning with volume-based strategies.”
FLASHBACK TO 2004: An approval by Agricultural Land Commission for Home Depot project in Courtenay required use of “Water Balance Model for British Columbia” to establish, test and meet performance targets for capturing rain on-site, where it falls, to protect agricultural lands downhill
The Home Depot project was one of the earliest applications of the Water Balance Methodology pursuant to the Stormwater Planning Guidebotok. “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.”
HARD WORK OF HOPE: “Our rivers are being reborn after a century of decline. This is a defining moment for all the communities that live in our Santa Cruz Watershed,” wrote Lisa Shipek, Executive Director, Watershed Management Group (Tuscon, Arizona)
“It’s not just the Santa Cruz that is being reborn. I have good news to share from other parts of our watershed. The nonprofit I direct, Watershed Management Group, has been monitoring creek flows across the Tucson basin since 2017,” stated Lisa Shipek. “Having flow in the Santa Cruz River downtown provides a daily visual of what a desert river looks like, which will help open the hearts and minds of the greater community to what is possible. We should rejoice alongside the Tohono O’Odham Nation and work with it to restore flow to our rivers and quicken our pace towards a more resilient future.”
THE STORM OF THE CENTURY COULD SOON HAPPEN EVERY YEAR: “The timescale [for major storms] is changing dramatically, and may become irrelevant in categorizing storms,” says Mandy Ikert, Director, Water and Adaptation Initiative – C40
A UN report warns extreme weather events that historically happened about once in 100 years could hit coastal cities yearly by 2050. Cities need to prepare now. “This is a wake-up call that we still need to do more to mitigate as much [climate impact] as possible. We’re not going back to normal—whatever normal once was,” stated Mandy Ikert. She says reports like this one are important: They help rally support from larger nations and financial institutions for protecting all cities from the effects of climate change.
HOW TREES COULD SAVE THE CLIMATE: “Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today, and it provides hard evidence to justify the investment,” stated Professor Thomas Crowther, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (July 2019)
Around 0.9 billion hectares of land worldwide would be suitable for reforestation, which could ultimately capture two thirds of human-made carbon emissions. This would be the most effective method to combat climate change. “We all knew that restoring forests could play a part in tackling climate change, but we didn’t really know how big the impact would be. But we must act quickly, as new forests will take decades to mature and achieve their full potential as a source of natural carbon storage,” stated Thomas Crowther.
WHOLE-SYSTEM, WATER BALANCE TRAINING FOR ENGINEERS: “The Town’s experience is that the weak link in drainage analyses is always the assumptions,” stated Shelley Ashfield, Municipal Engineer, when she explained why the Town of Comox took on responsibility for an educational process to bridge a gap in practitioner understanding
How water gets to a stream, and how long it takes, is not well understood among land and drainage practitioners. “A lack of explicit identification and justification of the assumptions and simplifications made in the analysis of stormwater impacts has resulted in stormwater systems that address hypothetical as opposed to actual site characteristics and development impacts,” stated Shelley Ashfield. “Learning from this experience, the Town now requires that assumptions be stated and explained. We are saying WHAT is your assumption, and WHY.”