Challenge: Lori had been having problems with water making its way into her basement. After speaking with her landscaper it became apparent that the culprit was the downspout, opposite the driveway, that let out at the corner of her house next to her foundation. She also wanted to update the look of her front yard, so she decided it was time to replace the shrubs with a garden that would better complement her home and attract butterflies and pollinators.
Lori's shrubs before the rain garden.

Solution: After removing the shrubs at the front of her yard, that area was excavated down into a bowl. The bowl is filled with a porous mixture of sand, compost and soil and mulch. This mixture helps to soak up water that fills up the bowl and allows it to slowly percolate into the ground. Lori has extended her downspout 8 feet away from the foundation so that water from her rooftop is directed down a slope and into the rain garden. For this, Lori received the maximum 45% stormwater credit from the City Kitchener. She receives lots of compliments from her neighbours on the new look, and is already planning similar projects in her backyard.

Construction and enjoyment

2015 Residential Stormwater Award Winner (Waterloo)

Here’s the story of one of the 2015 Celebrating Community Action award recipients. Learn about all nine recipients.

Catherine Fife, Ken and Elizabeth McLaughlin worked together to de-pave their adjoining driveways and replace them with permeable paving strips. The downspouts of both homes have been directed underground to stone below the driveway that stores and soaks water into the ground. With this project, they hope to reduce the volume and improve the quality of stormwater that flows from their property, ensure some groundwater recharge, and improve their homes’ curb appeal. During the Grand Porch Party last summer, Catherine noticed that her driveway was of interest to a lot of people. “It was a conversation starter,” she says. “It was a way to bring together people that had similar values.”

The project cost Catherine and her neighbours $3200 to install the driveway. As demand for green infrastructure increases, prices should come down and people won’t need to compromise on their sustainability values when hiring a contractor. As a bonus, it stimulates the local economy. “It’s important that more people act on environmental beliefs. We can create green jobs in this way,” says Catherine.

Catherine has a long history of modelling her values. She and her husband knew that their 117 year old house was energy inefficient, so they had REEP complete an EnerGuide for Homes Evaluation. Afterwards they installed LED lighting, high efficiency heating, and were more conscious of their energy use. Their heating and electricity costs were reduced and they enjoyed a noticeable improvement in comfort. “Putting a plan in place, prioritizing projects – it’s the hardest thing to do,” says Catherine. “REEP has the expertise needed to help homeowners make the first step, and homeowners need this expertise.”

Natalia’s basement was very humid (up to 85% at times) with one particularly damp corner. She found that she had to run her dehumidifier constantly, especially during and after it rained. To address any leaks, Natalia had the roof redone and eavestroughs replaced. The downspout at the problem corner was directed into a rain barrel with overflow away from the foundation. Natalia keeps several more rain barrels at her other downspouts, raised up from the ground on stands to improve water pressure and for ease of access. Natalia uses the rain she collects to water her trees, berry bushes, lawn, and garden plants. Since the work has been completed the humidity of the basement has dropped significantly and is now within a more comfortable range all of the time.

Natalia fills her watering cans up with water collected from her roof.

Ron was tired of his lawn turning brown over the long hot summer. He solved his problem by harvesting rainwater in his 1700 gallon (6500 L) underground cistern. Rain travels through his downspouts into the cistern which pumps water into a irrigation system. Not only does this afford him the freedom to water his lawn without worrying about municipal restrictions, he also saves money. His water bill has lowered significantly since the system came online.

Ron has not needed to replace a single component of his system in seven years, and the savings combined with the maximum 45% stormwater credit he receives means that his system is paying for itself.
Irrigation system fed by an underground cistern.

2015 Residential Stormwater Award Winner (Cambridge)

Here’s the story of one of the 2015 Celebrating Community Action award recipients. Learn about all nine recipients.

Mary-Louise and Alain had some serious stormwater problems at their home. During heavy rains and spring thaws water flowed from a high point in their back yard, over tight clay soils and into their basement. They worked with Kerr and Kerr Landscaping to develop a comprehensive solution to keep their basement dry. They removed over 100 cubic yards of soil to flatten the property, installed french drains, an infiltration gallery, several rain gardens and a permeable paving pathway and patio.

“The work has solved our water problems and turned our backyard into an oasis,” explains Mary-Louise.
Before and After the landscaping

2015 Residential Stormwater Award Winner (Kitchener)

Here’s the story of one of the 2015 Celebrating Community Action award recipients. Learn about all nine recipients.

For years Tim and Heidi struggled to find a solution to their backyard flooding problems. When they met Robert Tester of TNT Property Maintenance Inc. at the KW Home and Garden Show he introduced them to the idea of managing their flooding problems using rain gardens and other landscaping techniques. Tim and Heidi worked with Rob to install a French drain system (an inexpensive perforated pipe surrounded by gravel that sits 12” below the surface) that leads water away from their back fence into two new rain gardens. “After the work was done it rained for an entire weekend and the back yard stayed dry. It was amazing,” explains Heidi. To top it off, the project qualifies them for a 45% stormwater credit in the City of Kitchener!

Installation of a french drain system which infiltrates water and directs excess to the rain gardens.
Installation of a french drain system which infiltrates water and directs excess to the rain gardens
One of two rain gardens.
One of two rain gardens.

Goal: Oliver Popovic is a builder who specializes in eco-friendly homes. He custom built a family home in 2009 to accommodate three Popovic families. His spouse Andrea’s only request for their new home was “a place where she could grow fresh food.”

“It’s all part of conserving resources. We have a huge roof. Why not use it to our advantage?” Oliver Popovic

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Popovic Cistern Construction

Solution: Andrea has put her green thumb to good use in the 400 m2 organic garden. Watering the garden is convenient thanks to a 66,000L below ground cistern which was built underneath their back patio. The 6 foot deep concrete cistern captures rain water from all but a small section of the 680 m2 roof.
Other benefits: With their cistern, the Popovics are receiving the full 45% stormwater credit available from the City of Kitchener. Rain water from the cistern is also plumbed into the house for laundry use and flushing their toilets, saving the Popovics a significant amount on their utility bills. Any overflow from the cistern is directed to a weeping tile which gradually releases to the neighbourhood dry pond. By slowing the flow of rain during heavy storms the Popovics are helping to prevent flooding in downstream neighbourhoods, and erosion to our streams and rivers.
Challenge: Juanita and Trent are avid gardeners and own four rain barrels that harvest rain to water their plants. Unfortunately, water flowing from their downspouts and overflow from their barrels was eroding the soil and compromising their neighbour’s retaining wall.

Solution: After participating in a RAIN Home Visit, Juanita and Trent decided upon a plan to run excess overflow from their downspouts and rain barrels into an infiltration gallery (also known as a soakaway pit). Using the soil they dug up from the excavation, they built a berm to direct water away from their neighbour’s retaining wall and into the gallery where it could slowly infiltrate into the ground without causing erosion or flowing into the storm sewer.

They planted pollinator-friendly species around their yard. The plants’ root systems will help absorb and infiltrate water flowing from their rooftop as well as improve the soil stability around the retaining wall.

Trent installs infiltration gallery box

 Rock lined channels convey overflowBlooming Strawberry

Names: Juanita and Trent; Location: Kitchener, Ontario; Credit Eligibility: 880L Rain Barrels (4 x 220L) + 120L Infiltration Gallery = 1000L = 30% credit

“We have rain barrels because we don’t want to use municipal water. It doesn’t make sense that we use treated water for the garden when we can harvest the rain. The cost of water isn’t much because we’re spoiled with cheap water, but it’s the principle of it.” Juanita and Trent

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Challenge: Jackie and James’ house is located at a low point and all the water from the houses on higher ground behind them drains onto their property. One spring day, when there was still snow on the ground, they were doing laundry while it was raining heavily. Soon after, the sump pump overflowed and about 6 inches of water  covered the basement.
Solution: First, they had a RAIN Home Visit to review their options. During REEP’s RAIN Barrel Blitz they bought and installed two rain barrels. They planted a new garden and moved a lilac bush to the hill to soak up the water flowing down from other homes. They re-graded the garden that sits right up against their house to direct water away from the foundation.
Future Plans: They will be installing two more rain barrels on the other side of the house; extending the weeping tile to soak up more water and directing it away from the house; modifying the gardens into larger rain gardens; and creating an infiltration gallery using stone where water usually pools. They will also be re-doing all of the eavestroughs because they are cracked and leaking.

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“The water pressure I get is the same as I would get from any hose – I can shoot it 50 feet! Yes, the pump uses electricity, but the amount is minuscule and we don’t notice a difference on our electricity bill, but we sure do notice a difference on our water bill!” Kevin

Kevin’s problem was both practical and logistical – an outdoor tap placed on an inconvenient side of the house was causing him problems. Dragging a hose across his lawn meant that his kids’ bikes were constantly running over it, causing cracking and safety concerns. He already had rain barrels, but found it difficult to continually empty them which resulted in overflows and soggy grass.

When Kevin found a used cistern for $50 he knew he could solve his problems. He used the following stormwater solutions:

  • 900L Cistern
  • Wooden support platform
  • Electric pump to the cistern (purchased at a local hardware store)

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