Green infrastructure is a new approach to managing rainfall that treats rain as a resource instead of a waste product. It’s a key strategy for readying our communities for whatever wacky weather patterns the future holds. The goal of green infrastructure is to manage rain where it falls (versus traditional grey infrastructure methods like pipes and storm drains) via infiltration, evapotranspiration, and rainwater harvesting. For example, through rain gardens, green roofs, permeable pavement, and urban forests - to name a few.
In 2017, Our Living Waters Network members Green Communities Canada and the Canadian Freshwater Alliance assessed communities across the country on their adoption of green infrastructure policies and projects. Unfortunately, the assessment found few communities have advanced beyond pilot projects for green infrastructure and none have reached a transformative stage where the majority of rain falling in the community is managed where it lands.
There are a few cities that serve as good examples however. The city of Langley in British Columbia, for example, has a Department of Green Infrastructure Services and is standardizing rain gardens instead of traditional curb and gutter on non-arterial roads. In Vancouver, the city has established ambitious targets for stormwater retention and have invested $1.5M towards creating a comprehensive green infrastructure strategy to achieve these targets.
Despite these emerging examples in Canada, we need to look beyond our borders to start to see what’s possible. New York City, through green infrastructure solutions, is implementing a plan to reduce combined sewer overflow volumes by 3.8 billion gallons/year all while saving $1.5 billion on costs compared with investment in grey infrastructure improvements alone.
The challenge for Canada is to fully embrace green infrastructure solutions, invest in implementation and transform how water is managed in our communities to ensure that we live, work and play in resilient and beautiful places.
5-Year target: To advance knowledge of baseline measure while advancing transformative green infrastructure programs in at least 5 communities in Canada.
Last updated June 2017