Water Guardian: Stormwater Management
“There is a need to shift from draining and removing water from sites, to storing, detaining and infiltrating rainwater”
– (Schreier, Canadian Water Network, 2014).
The municipalities of Moncton, Riverview, and Dieppe currently receive their wastewater treatment from TransAqua (Formely the Greater Moncton Wastewater Commission, or GMWC). TransAqua’s facility is the largest wastewater treatment plant in the Province of New Brunswick, and can efficiently collect and provide primary treatment to 115,000 cubic meters of wastewater per day. The main wastewater tunnel connected to downtown Moncton is heavily combined, and services the majority of Moncton east and south of Wheeler Boulevard (GMWC, 2014).
Due to the high cost and impracticality of separating combined sewers in older and high-density areas, the wastewater treatment plant currently has overflow measures, which during precipitation events which exceed its daily wastewater capacity, causes effluent to flow directly into the Petitcodiac River. This is not an uncommon practice in the rest of the Province of New Brunswick, either.
The Water Guardian Project
Due to increasing densification in this urban area, and the increase in frequency of large storms, the reliance on this aging municipal infrastructure is no longer sufficient, and it is essential to involve the property owners in the reduction of domestic wastewater and stormwater volumes at the residential-scale.
The Water Guardian Project is aimed at improving water quality by reducing the volume of stormwater and wastewater that reaches our local wastewater treatment plant. We provide education to residents of the tri-community area (Moncton, Riverview, Dieppe), as well as supply them with basic tools needed to understand and reduce their domestic water use. The three tools we chose for the purposes of this project were rain barrels, rain gardens, and toilet tank banks.
What is a rain barrel?
a rain barrel is simply a storage tank that temporarily holds stormwater from your roof. Instead of coming off of your roof and flowing across your lawn and into your ditch, it is diverted into a barrel connected to your downspout, and then is stored for later use.
What are the benefits of having a rain barrel?
- Drastically reduce runoff with low costs and minimal maintenance.
- Simple to install, suitable for virtually any household property size or location.
- Stores relatively clean, unchlorinated water for use on lawns and gardens.
- Can reduce domestic water use, lowering water bills and demands on city water system, especially during peak summer periods.
- carefully selecting the behaviour to be promoted
- identifying the barriers and benefits associated with adopting the selected behaviour
- designing a strategy that utilizes behaviour-change tools to address these barriers and benefits
- piloting the strategy with a small segment of a community
- evaluating the impact of the program once it has been implemented broadly (Mohr, 2010).
- mimics the natural permeability, absorption and pollutant removal abilities of a wooded area
- can absorb 30-40% more water than a standard lawn
- prevents erosion of the lawn from the rush of water runoff that occurs during storms
- aesthetically pleasing, just like a normal garden
- A great conversation piece!
- Reduces the amount of water wasted per flush
- Reduce amount of money each flush costs if your water is metered.
- Has same effect as purchasing a brand new, low-flow toilet, without the cost
- Some prefer this to using a pop bottle
- We will give you one for free!
Rain barrels are becoming a popular way to harvest rainwater, and they reduce the amount of stormwater runoff that enters our collection system, and provide us with a free, non-chlorinated water source for lawns and gardens. Many people even say that rainwater is the best water for washing hair!
Applying Community-Based Social Marketing Techniques:
Promoting Rain Barrel Usage at the Residential-Scale
“Numerous studies document that education alone often has little or no effect upon sustainable behavior. As a consequence, programs that make use of information intensive approaches, such as bill-stuffers, flyers, and direct mail have very little likelihood of changing behavior.” – (Mohr, 2010)
For the purposes of the Water Guardian Project, we wanted a large portion of our work to be related to awareness of stormwater management issues. We knew from experience that simply handing out flyers about issues and solutions is often not enough to make people adopt the behaviours we want them to. We set out with the goal to determine what would leads individuals to engage in positive behaviours for water management, and design our programs accordingly. We used the concepts of Community-Based Social Marketing created by Dr. Doug Mackenzie Mohr, who is an Environmental Psychologist:
Along with research and the use of information from case studies, the PWA conducted surveys to determine what factors would act as barriers to prevent the widespread adoption of rain barrels within the target area and determined that living in rented housing; associated costs; general lack of knowledge; and forgetting to act were the main barriers to adopting the use of a rain barrel on their property.
To reduce these barriers, we create outreach materials which we delivered in person, and we gave away 30 rain barrels to a residents of the tri-comunnity area. The participants in the follow up survey a year later (30% of total rain barrel recipients responded to our follow-up survey request), indicated that 100% of them use their provided rain barrel 1-3 times per month. That is at least 10 people in this watershed who now possess a rain barrel and use it because we elimated these barriers for them. Next year we hope to be able to take the information we learned during our pilot study and apply these concepts more effectively.
What is a rain garden?
A rain garden is a shallow depression (4-8 inches deep) that is planted with deep-rooted and native plants and grasses. On the surface, a rain garden looks like any garden. It may support habitat for birds and butterflies, it may be a formal landscape or it may be incorporated into a larger garden as a border or as an entry feature. It allows rainwater runoff from impervious areas such as driveways, sidewalks, roofs, and parking lots the opportunity to be taken up by water-tolerant plants, and be absorbed into the ground, instead of entering the sewer system.
The benefits of using a rain garden:
Rain gardens are designed to be drained within four hours after a 1 inch rain event, so the plants selected for the garden need to be able to withstand both the extremes of flooding and drought. Many floodplain species, plants wth deep fibrous roots, herbaceous perennials, or woody shrubs or trees, are particularly well-suited to be used in a rain garden.
The PWA, with the help of employees of RBC Canada, very successfuly installed 2 rain gardens at the Mapleton Lodge, which is a municipal building belonging to the City of Moncton. We hope next year we can installed more rain gardens, particularly in the downtown core.
Toilet Tank Banks!
What is a toilet tank bank?
A toilet tank bank is filled with water and inserted into the tank of the toilet. This displaces the water in the tank, reducing the amount of water wasted per flush (3 litres). This is the same way that filling a pop bottle and placing it in the toilet tank works. They are durable, flexible plastic, so they will not damage your toilet in any way. These are particularly helpful if your toilet is old, and uses a lot of water per flush. These are not suitable for low flow toilets.
The benefits to using a toilet tank bank:
We gave away 200 tank banks this year to people of the tri-community area during outreach sessions. Of particular note, we were able to outfit some of the eligible toilets in The Commerce House building, which is the location of our office, located on St. George Street in Moncton’s Downtown.
The use of such water harvesting techniques is becoming more prevalent, and we hope that these 3 tools will become a common household feature in the Greater Moncton Area. Many cities have begun adopting better stormwater management techniques, and the City of Moncton itself initiated a by-law which requires 25% permeable surfaces on new developments. They also are slowly separating the combined sewer systems as problems arise as the infrastructure needs replacing.
For a better understanding of our Water Guardian project, local stomrwater management issues, and how you can reduce your domestic water output, see our stormwater management video.