FLASHBACK TO 2010: Release of “Re-Inventing Rainwater Management in the Capital Region” was announced at the Bowker Creek Forum by Calvin Sandborn, Legal Director of the Environmental Law Clinic, University of Victoria

Note to Reader:

Released in February 2010, “Re-Inventing Rainwater Management” documents how ‘green’ rainwater management has now been adopted by engineers, developers, planners and governments across North America. It also demonstrates that ‘Design with Nature’ approaches and Low Impact Development techniques are environmentally superior, and often are cheaper. In addition, they can provide incalculable benefits.

The report was produced by the Environmental Law Clinic (ELC) at the University of Victoria. The primary author was Calvin Sandborn, ELC Legal Director. The primary mission of the Environmental Law Centre Society is to provide research and advocacy on public interest environmental issues.

Context for a Paradigm-Shift

The report sets the context for Re-Inventing Rainwater Management by first describing the environmental and stream health problems that are the legacy of an obsolete 19th century stormwater management system—a system that fails to respect natural systems and water cycles.

The past provides a contrast with contemporary rainwater management practices that make the 21st century Green City possible—a city that designs rainwater management in concert with natural systems, not at cross purposes.

To Learn More:

Download a copy and read Re-Inventing Rainwater Management: A Strategy to Protect Health and Restore Nature in the Capital Region.

Design with Nature

“Traditional stormwater management broke the natural water cycle,” states Calvin Sandborn, Legal Director of the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Victoria.

“It viewed stormwater as a site-specific problem solved by rapidly piping water away from properties and converting streams at the end of the pipe into drainage ditches.”

“In contrast, modern rainwater management looks at the dynamics of the entire watershed and identifies how development can use ‘green infrastructure’ to maintain natural systems and protect buildings.”

“Instead of relying heavily on pipes and concrete, it works to restore the function of trees, soil and open space that provide natural absorption, storage, evaporation and filtration services. Typically, this Low Impact Development or Design with Nature approach mimics the natural water cycle by allowing water to infiltrate down through the soil and slowly release into the watershed.”

Bowker Creek Forum

The Bowker Creek Forum was a celebration of the Bowker Creek Blueprint, a precedent-setting 100-year Action Plan for restoration of the inter-municipal Bowker Creek Watershed in the Capital Region.

This unique multi-jurisdictional effort brought together four local governments (Capital Regional District, City of Victoria, District of Saanich, and City of Oak Bay), community groups, post-secondary institutions and private citizens.

“In Re-Inventing Rainwater Management, we talk about the Bowker Creek Initiative as being an ideal way of approaching (watershed protection and restoration issues). But we need to extend the approach beyond Bowker Creek (to the rest of the Capital Region),” noted Calvin Sandborn.

Watch Calvin Sandborn on YouTube:

To view Calvin Sandborn provide an overview of Re-Inventing Rainwater Management at the Bowker Creek Forum in February 2010, watch this 5-minute video clip.

Connecting the Dots to Bowker Creek Blueprint

“It was both timely and relevant that the UVIC Environmental Law Clinic released Re-Inventing Rainwater Management on the same day that the Bowker Creek Forum was held at UVic,” stated Eric Bonham. He delivered the opening address at the Forum. A former Director in two provincial Ministries, Eric Bonham is a founding member of Convening for Action on Vancouver Island, known by the acronym CAVI.

“The day forced us to ‘think watershed’ and transcend jurisdictional boundaries. The politicians are listening. Geoff Young, CRD Chairman, stated that… ‘cross boundary problems make managing rainwater more difficult, but some of the ideas they have put forward are ones we have started talking about’…. when he commented on Re-Inventing Rainwater Management.”

Call for Regional Action

The report describes a number of notable innovative projects in British Columbia’s Capital Region and elsewhere, including the Bowker Creek Blueprint. It then makes its first recommendation: that local governments reform policies and legislation—and work with partners—to ensure implementation of Low Impact Development (LID) across the landscape.

Regional Rainwater Commission

“The report also recommends the formation of a Capital Regional District Rainwater Commission to undertake an integrated watershed management approach for managing rainwater across the region,” continues Calvin Sandborn.

“A Rainwater Management Regional Commission is necessary to overcome the main barrier to rational rainwater management: the fragmented jurisdiction over runoff in our region.”

“The problem is that storm sewers are separately owned and regulated by each individual municipality. However, modern rainwater planning requires a watershed-wide approach, and local watersheds often include more than one municipality.”

“Single municipalities lack legal capacity and resources to carry out the necessary watershed planning. A Regional Rainwater Commission could redress this.”

Media Coverage:

To read an article published in the Victoria Times-Colonist, click on UVic study: Outdated rainwater system leads to pollution in Victoria region