Managing urban rainwater in the Capital Region

As we marked World Water Day on March 22, it’s a good time to think about what we can do to protect water supplies in our own region.

More than ever, environmentally-aware citizens are realizing that it’s all connected. And in the Capital Region, we can actually view that process from start to finish.

Rain carpets our forests in the Sooke hills. This water makes its way, via streams, to the Sooke reservoir, our region’s drinking water source. From here, water is disinfected and piped to our homes and businesses, where it does a great job of keeping our city healthy, clean and well irrigated. To help protect this precious resource, there’s a lot that we can do, both in our cities and outside of them.

When considering the benefits of water savings, taking steps to “greenscape” large, urban buildings in a city core can do a lot to help our environment.

Water runoff in cities tends to be high, due to the large percentage of impervious surfaces. When water runs off roofs, sidewalks and roads, it empties into our storm drains, allowing pollutants such as oil and gas into our creeks and the marine environment.

Bigger roofs and sidewalks mean more runoff and more waste. As well, roofs and boulevards without plantings can absorb the sun’s rays and add to the “heat island” effect, raising the ambient temperature and decreasing air quality.

The Capital Regional District’s LEED certified building was constructed to counteract these urban challenges.

At 625 Fisgard St., a rooftop rainwater collection system provides water for use in toilet flushing throughout the building. Low flow toilets help ensure the collected water is used as sparingly as possible, which means using less water from the Region’s drinking water source — the Sooke reservoir.

The CRD is also growing things on building’s roof. There are two types of green roofs and one green wall under cultivation: the extensive green roof is comprised of shallow-soiled succulents that provide ever changing colour, help to reflect the sun’s rays and absorb rainwater, resulting in decreased runoff.

The CRD’s intensive green roof features native plants, fruit trees and seasonal vegetables. This roof also contributes to food security, provides habitat for native species of birds, butterflies and insects, and helps to support urban agriculture.

The building’s green wall, in Centennial Square, features a beautiful variety of drought resistant plants and, along with native plantings featured in boulevards around the building, helps provide a green oasis for pedestrians.

Native plants require low or no irrigation, as they are adapted to our dry summers. Plantings also help to clean runoff and absorb contaminants, which means a healthier marine environment.

Residents can do their part, too, by installing low flow fixtures, planting native plants and letting their lawns go golden in summer.

CRD residents are already doing good work: despite 14 per cent growth in regional population, water use has declined by 11 per cent since 1995.

Free tours of the Sooke reservoir will occur in May. Visit www.crd.bc.ca/water for dates and times.

By becoming a good steward of the regional watershed system, we can protect our water supplies, keep our streams and oceans cleaner and support the health of our planet.

See www.crd.bc.ca/watersheds to learn more.

—John Balogh is the senior manager of environmental partnerships for the Capital Regional District.

 

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