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Rain garden helps B.C. town protect their waterways

New Westminster, a town just outside Vancouver, is helping keep its waterways healthy, its park protected and its residents safe with a rain garden.
Top image caption: A rain garden planted in New Westminister, B.C. with help from Evergreen.

Published on March 20, 2017

As rain pours down on our cities, it picks up a slurry of pollutants from roads, buildings and properties, eventually making its way into our bodies of water.

In Vancouver, these polluted waters end up in the Georgia Strait through False Creek, Burrard Inlet or the Fraser River. In Toronto, stormwater eventually flows into Lake Ontario, the source of the city’s drinking water.

Urban development not only increases the amount of pollutants in the water, but also prevents stormwater from being absorbed and naturally filtered through the earth, so what can we do?

We have championed a couple ways to deal with stormwater in our Canadian cities, starting with our work in New Westminster, in the Greater Vancouver Area.

Rain gardens

In April 2016, Evergreen, volunteers and the City of New Westminster built two rain gardens on the banks of the Brunette River, adjacent to the well-used Lower Hume Park.

The gardens were planted with native plants and are designed to filter pollutants from stormwater generated in the park before it flows into the Brunette River, which is home to sensitive species including salmon, Western Painted Turtles and the Nooksack Dace.  

Native plants actually soak up more water than plain old grass. They take in that water and filter it through the earth. By the time the water gets to its destination, the quality is drastically improved!

The gardens will improve the health of the park for hopefully years to come, and offer educational opportunities for park users about green infrastructure.

Not only do rain gardens improve water quality, but they’re also an important design feature in climate adaptation projects. The gardens mitigating the effects of increased stormwater over time and protect the rivers, sewage systems and surrounding residential areas.

In New Westminster, Evergreen hosted two rain garden workshops to animate the space and raise awareness about the importance of green infrastructure in design. One was a hands on planting event where volunteers got to install native shrubs and grasses in the garden while learning about their function in climate adaptation.

The second was a workshop with 20 local high school students as part of a climate change conference, where we explored the role of healthy watersheds and green infrastructure in climate adaptation.

This rain garden project was made possible with support from Intact Foundation, MEC, HSBC and Environment and Climate Change Canada’s EcoAction Community Grant.

March is Water Month at Evergreen! Join the conversation: #EGWaterMonth.

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Later this week, learn about how we are helping mitigate stormwater through the development of the Evergreen Brick Works site in Toronto’s Don Valley.