Using rain water to your advantage!
To minimize adverse environmental impacts of urbanization— something we all have a vested interest in—a practice called low impact development (LID) is becoming increasingly popular in many Canadian towns and cities, This suite of techniques can also be used around your home to improve your property and help the environment. These projects can be as simple as disconnecting a downspout from the municipal storm sewer, installing rain barrels or directing your downspout to a specially constructed rain garden.
Catching Rain: How to Use Rainwater on Your Property
Every time it rains, chemicals, fuels, heavy metals and bacteria wash off of lawns, driveways and streets and into our lakes and rivers. This polluted water is a hazard for fish, aquatic species, plant life and mammals. It also impacts the quality of our drinking water.
The good news is there are a number of ways to prevent stormwater from polluting our waterways by capturing and treating rainfall where it lands, before it enters sewers.
A rain garden is a shallow depression planted with flowers and shrubs that stores rainwater, allowing it to soak into the ground. Rain gardens slow water down and filter out harmful contaminants at the source—your home. It looks like any other attractive garden. Smart placement and plant selection give this garden the increased functionality of being part of your own water management process. Less lawn area also means less watering and lower long- term maintenance costs.
Why pay to water your garden with tap water when rain water is free? Storing runoff as a resource directly benefits you.
Rain barrels are another fantastic DIY project to help waterways and enhance your property. A rain barrel should have an overflow to discharge excess rainwater when the barrel is full. It’s preferable to keep the barrel elevated so a pump isn’t needed to pipe water with a garden hose.
The Region of Peel suggests placing a rain barrel under the downspout of your home’s eaves trough system to collect the rainwater runoff from your roof. The bottom of the barrel can be fitted with a spigot and hose attachment so you can use the water for your garden. A tightly fitting screen cover can be used to prevent mosquitoes from using the barrel as a breeding ground.
You can also disconnect your downspout from the municipal storm sewer to allow clean rooftop runoff to seep into your lawn and take the strain off local waterways. This means less water rushing into the storm sewer system, which in turn means less neighbourhood or basement flooding and less property damage.
Some important considerations need to be made first, before disconnecting the downspout. You should ensure the following:
• The runoff flows away from the building;
• The downspout discharge should be at least six feet from your foundation;
• Your yard should be at least one-tenth of your roof area to safely infiltrate the rain water; and
• The downspout should not drain onto your neighbour’s property or a public walkway.
Get Your Feet Wet:
• For more information or to purchase a rain barrel, visit the Region of Peel website.
• For more information about low impact development, visit the Credit Valley website.
• For fantastic how-to guides for the homeowner from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, visit their website.
• For how-to instruction on disconnecting downspouts, visit the City of Mississauga’s website.