Reducing pollution in rivers, lakes and streams
GREEN COMMUNITIES developed the RAIN program to address the impact on lakes and streams of stormwater runoff in urban areas. RAIN works with municipalities and landowners to reduce run-off contamination by slowing stormwater flows and maximizing natural filtration.
Stormwater contamination is a growing concern
The proliferation of hard surfaces in our cities and towns means that falling rain has nowhere else to go than the storm sewer system. Weather events generate large volumes of run-off, carrying pollutants from roads, parking lots, and lawns (e.g. pet waste) through storm sewers into local waterways. Contaminants threaten source water, wildlife, and recreational uses like swimming.
Run-off volumes can overwhelm the capacity of the engineered stormwater management systems, resulting in flooding and erosion, and in some cases combined sewer overflow results in untreated human wastes flowing directly into waterways. With climate change, an increase in severe weather events is expected.
Stormwater infrastructure is very costly, and budget-constrained municipalities find it difficult to keep up with the growing demand resulting from urban development.
The goal of RAIN is to maximize natural hydrologic processes through a variety of practical and positive solutions like rain water harvesting, porous paving, dog waste composters, and rain gardens. Measures like these can divert thousands of litres of polluted stormwater from entering the system. Diverted rain is then filtered naturally by the soil and recharges our precious groundwater aquifers.
To motivate action by homeowners and other landowners, Green Communities member organizations that deliver the RAIN program build demonstration projects, organize events, host workshops, and organize tours of model stormwater projects. See the RAIN website for details.
RAIN had its origins in (2009) with funding from Trillium as a one-year pilot in partnership with Toronto-based Riversides and six Ontario members organizations. Based on a successful pilot, RAIN branding was adopted and program elements were refined, along with key messages:
- slow it down
- soak it up
- keep it clean
Since then, RAIN delivery has continued to expand to ten communities with funding from Trillium, ecoACTION, and others.
Hold on to your butts
Ongoing program innovations include a sticker campaign to keep cigarette butts out of waterways, fundraisers featuring rain barrels hand-painted by local artists, and the adoption of “RAIN is a resource” as a key message, featured on umbrellas.
Working with municipalities and other partners to address stormwater issues
We work with partners to help municipalities implement a “green infrastructure” approach to stormwater management. Solid information about results, costs, and benefits is a priority need and we are here to help.
Our ever-growing circle of partners also includes conservation authorities, garden centres, landscapers, contractors, and pet stores.
$1 Million pilot program in Kitchener Waterloo
In 2011, Green Communities worked with the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo and our local member, REEP Green Solutions, to develop a more intensive three-year version RAIN Kitchener-Waterloo program funded by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. An expanded menu of RAIN activities (e.g., a dry home consultation) is combined with landowner incentives for implementing measures that divert stormwater.
In 2012 we are bringing the popular “depave” model to Canada, in which hard surfaces like parking lots are torn up and reclaimed for nature. Partners include pioneer Depave (Portland) and LEAF (Toronto). Funders include the North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action, the RBC Blue Water Project, the Metcalf Foundation, the Echo Foundation, TD Friends of the Environment, and more.