World Water Day 2018: “Streamkeepers is advocating for the introduction of municipal incentives for permeable – or ‘green’ – surfaces,” wrote Glen Parker, North Shore Streamkeepers, in an opinion piece about rainwater management and “changing the way we do business” in Metro Vancouver’s North Shore region
Stormwater Management an Increasingly Complex Challenge
“March 22, marks World Water Day, an opportunity to reflect on the state of one of our most precious – and often taken for granted – resources,” wrote Glen Parker, North Shore Streamkeepers, a stewardship group in the Metro Vancouver region.
“While it’s customary here to lament the sheer amount of precipitation our city gets, the fact is that rain, and the waterways through which it flows, play an incredibly important role in our region’s beautiful and diverse ecosystem – an ecosystem that requires ongoing monitoring and maintenance to ensure the sustainability of the surrounding environment and wildlife.”
Volume and Quality
“Perhaps because rain is thought of as a force of rejuvenation and renewal, we often neglect to think about how stormwater can actually endanger our ecosystems and fish populations across the North Shore,” continued Glen Parker.
“Protection of our local watershed starts with understanding the time and route that water takes to get into a stream. Every year, North Vancouver receives almost 60 inches of precipitation. In the past, this rain would have slowly and naturally seeped into the soil. However, in our increasingly urban landscape, the growing presence of impervious surfaces – paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops – means that massive quantities of stormwater are entering drainage systems before being directly deposited into our waterways.
“Not only does stormwater carry pollutants – such as heavy metals, fertilizers, and solvents – from the urban surfaces it traverses on its way into our rivers and streams, the forced flushing of stormwater into waterways also scours the gravel beds needed by fish for spawning and leaves little water in the ground to maintain summer flows.”
“This issue is further compounded by the large amounts of water taken from the North Shore for use in our drinking water system, which then goes into our waste water system, bypassing the rivers and streams where the water could have helped support fish populations. Instead, the wastewater is dumped into the ocean near Lions Gate Bridge, creating a barrier of pollution that impacts the local ecosystem.
“The reality is that stormwater management has become an increasingly complex and multi-dimensional challenge. Residents, industry and government all have a role to play.”
How the Stewardship Sector Makes a Difference
“Through North Shore Streamkeepers, we are actively working to address this issue on the North Shore through restoration projects, partnerships, and advocacy for responsible environmental policy. For instance, we are working to enhance a Lynn Creek ephemeral channel, which is being impacted by increasing stormwater volumes as well as lower summer flows.
“To enhance the habitat, we are working with partners in the public, private, and non-profit sectors to install large woody structures that naturally scour pools of water, create refuge areas in low water conditions, provide instream and overhead cover, as well as retain organic matter – all essential elements for the return of spawning salmon.”
A Role for Industry
“Ultimately, effective stormwater management will only be possible with the support of industry, which is increasingly showing leadership in this area. For example, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the federal agency that oversees the Port of Vancouver, works with its local terminals along the North Shore to manage stormwater runoff through an environmental review process, development of stormwater management plans, and installation of appropriate infrastructure.
“Supportive policy will be another essential component for improving stormwater management practices. Streamkeepers is advocating for the introduction of municipal incentives for permeable – or “green” – surfaces, which would allow water to naturally seep into soil, reducing toxic stormwater accumulation and enhancing ground water flows.
“This approach is economical, effective, and could lower municipal infrastructure costs by reducing pipe size requirements and water treatment volumes. We can start by using rebates or tax rates based on permeable surfaces – options successfully implemented by other cities, which set stormwater utility rates based on a property’s impervious surface area.”
“If North Shore municipalities are to successfully introduce an equitable funding initiative like this, the first step is broader public awareness and understanding of the challenges facing our water systems – particularly the necessity of investing in green infrastructure like permeable surfaces.
“World Water Day is a good opportunity to start that discussion, but this is a dialogue that must continue to evolve and involve organizations across sectors if we value our region’s aquatic ecosystems and the abundant wildlife they support,” concluded Glen Parker.
To Learn More:
In March 2017, the 2nd annual North Vancouver workshop organized by the North Shore Streamkeepers (NSSK) attracted participants from communities throughout the Metro Vancouver region, and on a Saturday afternoon! In June 2017, NSSK released their summary report on the event, complete with an action plan. Read:
DESIGN WITH NATURE: North Shore Streamkeepers action plan focuses on “what we can do” to encourage local governments to implement effective rainwater management and protect streams on Metro Vancouver’s North Shore mountainside