Umbrella Stormwater Bulletin 39
16 December 2015
Published by Green Communities Canada

Green infrastructure in winter

Photo credit: Alison Gillespie

There are many myths about green infrastructure – and many good counterarguments. One of the most persistent myths is that Canada’s winter weather makes green infrastructure impractical. We hear it all the time: “This might work in temperate climates in Europe or the U.S. But we have winter!”

This argument is not supported by the evidence.

Some of the most progressive cities that rely on green infrastructure for stormwater management have harsh winters. Milwaukee, Wisconsin has a very ambitious green infrastructure program – and also gets more snow on average each year than Toronto.

The State of Minnesota is another green infrastructure leader that experiences far colder temperatures than most of southern Ontario. (The average temperature in January in at least nine Minnesota cities reaches below minus 10 degrees C.) 

Green infrastructure has some advantages over grey in winter weather. Directing roof runoff to permeable areas and using permeable pavement means that less water flows over hard surfaces, resulting in fewer icing hazards, since water does not sit on the pavement. It can also reduce the need for road salt.

Concerns about frozen ground and spring rainfall causing flooding of green infrastructure installations have not been realized. Monitoring of permeable pavement, infiltration trenches and bioretention in winter and spring conditions have consistently shown continued good performance (see for example the Elm Drive monitoring report from CVC and Evaluating permeable pavements in cold climates by TRCA).   

Good design can facilitate winter operations and maintenance....[Read more....]



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Latest news

Green infrastructure at COP21.  The Paris Agreement has set a global standard for reducing greenhouse gases. Now countries are looking for ways to reduce their fossil fuel usage and carbon emissions. In order to financially support a "rapid transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient economy" an alliance of global investors has formed a Green Infrastructure Investment Coalition that will mobilize investment in low carbon, resilient infrastructure projects.

National audit program to prevent home flooding. The Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation announced that they will be rolling out a national audit program to help homeowners to reduce their chance of flood damage. The program is based on Green Communities Canada’s RAIN Home Visit that has been delivered in Kitchener, WaterlooCalgary and Hamilton.

Bringing green stormwater infrastructure to your community. This winter’s Sustainable Communities Conference will feature a workshop that provides strategic insights into municipal policy and program tools for community-wide implementation of GSI to reduce stormwater runoff volumes and achieve water quality and quantity targets. This workshop will be co-hosted by Green Communities Canada and Sustainable Prosperity. 

Drought is sinking California.  Four years into a major drought, parts of California are sinking up to 2 inches a month. With no surface water remaining and groundwater dwindling, farmers have been pumping water out of successive underground aquifers. This is a harsh reminder that we need to create landscapes and systems that return water to the aquifers that we draw from.

Expanding the Greenbelt. Ontario’s Greenbelt is currently 1.8 million acres and was created to protect environmentally sensitive areas from urban development. With the support of 115 community groups, the Greenbelt region may now be expanded to protect areas of hydrological significance including: headwaters, groundwater recharge areas, surface water and urban river valleys.

Greener Complete Streets. A city councillor in Ottawa says that the proposed Complete Streets policy for the city is not green enough, and would like it to be mandatory for city planners to consider green infrastructure when reviewing streetscapes. Incorporating green infrastructure with Complete Streets is being done in Boston, Philadelphia and soon in the City of Toronto.

Useful resources

Living City Campus Virtual Tour. A new interactive website features information on a variety of sustainable urban technologies, including water conservation, rainwater harvesting, infiltration landscapes, and alternative wastewater treatment.

Stormwater case studies. The American Society for Landscape Architects has an online directory of stormwater projects that includes a small section with Canadian projects. In Canada, the Credit Valley Conservation Authority has produced a database of stormwater projects in Ontario. Both databases could use more Canadian examples.


Rainwater Catchment Accredited Professional Workshop. 12-13 January 2016. Toronto, Ontario. Register online.

Sustainable Communities Conference. 9-11 February 2016. Ottawa, Ontario. Hosted by Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Register online.

Roads and runoff: implementing green streets in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. 1 March 2016. Clarke Memorial Hall, Mississauga. Registration available in January. Sign up to receive updates. Supported by the Places to Grow Implementation Fund.

TRIECA. Conference. 23-24 March 2016. Brampton, Ontario. Early bird registration online. Hosted by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

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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