Umbrella Stormwater Bulletin 37
11 November 2015
Published by Green Communities Canada

Rain barrels for managing rain where it falls

Long promoted as a tool for water conservation, rain barrels are emerging as a simple low-cost method of on-site stormwater management.

Collecting roof runoff is valuable whether the goal is to save water or manage rain where it falls. But if the goal is runoff volume reductions, municipalities need to promote the right messages. 
  • Install more rain barrels. One or two barrels might hold all the water the average gardener wants, but they won’t come close to collecting the runoff from most roofs. In order to capture the first 10mm from a 120 m² roof (an amount that could be expected to fall within a few minutes, nearly every year), six standard rain barrels would be needed.  
  • Direct overflows to permeable areas. Given that most homeowners won’t be able to install enough rainwater harvesting capacity to capture larger storms, it’s important that they be advised to set up rain barrels so overflows go to lawns or gardens – or better yet, rain gardens, designed to collect larger volumes of water. 
  • Drain before next rain. People concerned about water conservation often save the water in anticipation of a dry spell. But to slow down peak flows, barrels must be emptied before it rains again. A soaker hose will slowly release water over time. One company markets a networked grid of rain barrels that can be emptied remotely – though this has yet to be tested on the ground.
  • Rain barrel safety and maintenance. Whether for water conservation or stormwater management, homeowners need guidance about safe installation and maintenance of their barrels., which partners with local community groups to hold rain barrel fundraisers, provides instructions and videos. Before the winter freeze, barrels need to be emptied and disconnected, and downspouts directed at least eight feet away from the foundation.  If not, all that water can end up in the basement. 
Other forms of green infrastructure...[Read more....]



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Latest news

Green infrastructure is good for fish!  A recent study has shown that stormwater runoff from urban roadways is poisonous for coho salmon. However, the researchers from this study as well as biologists in Vancouver have found that mortality in fish populations was reduced when stormwater runoff was pretreated by soil infiltration, and recommend that green infrastructure be incorporated into developments within watersheds where salmon span. 

Turning vacant lots into landscaped assets. Detroit Future City has created an online guide to connect residents, businesses, and institutions to resources and to each other to collaborate to transform vacant lots into useful greenspaces. The guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to create landscapes that keep rain out of the city's overburdened combined sewer system and beautify neighbourhoods.

Is Canada prepared for droughts? Parts of Western Canada experienced the worst drought in a decade this summer. With climate change, prolonged droughts could increase. Canada does not seem to be doing enough to mitigate or prepare for the impacts of future droughts.

Bioswales and trees- working together.  A permeable parking lot in northern Illinois filters runoff into bioswales with trees to reduce the amount of contaminants entering an adjacent lake. Trees are not always included in designs for bioswales or rain gardens, but they can have a great impact on runoff reduction and filtration, returning water to the atmosphere through their leaves and absorbing it through their roots.

Icy roads are coming, are you ready? Road salts contaminate aquifers and soil, and compromise the health of our rivers and streams as well as our drinking water. There are very few efficient methods to remove salt from water and soil. Reducing or eliminating road salt is the only effective method of protecting the environment. Training courses are offered for contractors and large property owners so they can learn how to reduce the amount of salt they are using while keeping their properties safe.

Useful resources

Urban flood response planning. A thesis from Wilfrid Laurier University examines urban flood response measures and resilience building in Toronto and Calgary. Measures assessed included policies, decision making and community engagement.

Using green infrastructure in karst regions. Karst topography can be found in the Great Lakes region and is made up of soluble bedrock that easily erodes when it comes in contact with water. This extremely porous bedrock increases the risk of waterborne pollutants directly entering aquifers. This report provides best management practices for implementing green stormwater infrastructure in areas with karst.

Mental impact of droughts and flooding. Two separate literature reviews summarize the psychological impacts of severe drought and the impact of flooding on mental health. Another great reason to build communities that are drought and flood resilient!


Water and your place of worship. Webinar. 18 November, 1:30-2:30pm EST. Details and registration online. Hosted by Faith and the Common Good and presented by RAIN Community Solutions. Free.

Soak It Up! Effective tools for community action. Manage rain where it falls and reduce runoff pollution and volumes. Free workshop. 2 December. Toronto, Ontario. Registration information. Hosted by Green Infrastructure Ontario and presented by Green Communities Canada.

LID Training. Workshop. 23-24 November. Barrie, Ontario. The Living City Campus is offering two training sessions: LID Stormwater Management Treatment Train Design Practices and LID Construction, Inspection and Maintenance Training.

Implementing green infrastructure in rural and growing communities. 8 December. Webinar. Registration and details available in late November. Hosted by USEPA. Free.

Want to see more events? Check out the RAIN Events Calendar for other upcoming green infrastructure workshops, training, webinars and conferences.

The Umbrella Stormwater Bulletin is a free, biweekly newsletter on green stormwater infrastructure published by the RAIN Community Solutions program of Green Communities Canada. Our audience is made up of municipal stormwater professionals, policymakers, academics, engineers, conservation authorities, nonprofits, and interested community members. We encourage submissions from our readers. Please contact the editor to submit a news item, blog idea, or event. RAIN Community Solutions builds support for and participation in stormwater innovations that reduce runoff by managing rain where it falls.

Copyright © 2015 Green Communities Canada, All rights reserved.


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