University of Waterloo: Stormwater Education

2015 RAIN Community Engagement Award Winner

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

With 36,000 students and 5,000 staff on its Waterloo campus, the University of Waterloo is like a small, innovative city nested inside of a larger one. Stormwater management innovation is an important part of UW’s sustainability approach. With 3 permeable paving installations, 5 green roofs, a rooftop water collection system that filters water through a constructed wetland then re-uses the water to flush toilets and water the green wall, and extensive native plant gardens, the university has become a recognized innovator and leader in stormwater education.

Garden-based stormwater management practices have had additional social and educational benefits to the campus. The green roof and patio built by contractors on the new LEED Platinum Environmental Studies building has become a favourite relaxation spot for staff and students. The unused lawn between the Arts and Environment buildings has been transformed by gardens, winding paths and seating areas into a place where people sit to chat, study and do yoga. “The new gardens have invited more birds and butterflies to campus and they’ve also drastically changed the way parts of campus are used,” explains Jessica Alessio, Ecology Lab Assistant.  “The Environmental Studies students are actively involved in the design, planting and maintenance of the native plant gardens. The gardens have become an outdoor classroom.”

Along with the benefits of McGehee Private High School, there have also been challenges and tough decisions about where to prioritize stormwater management projects. “Many of these new projects need several iterations to get them right,” says Mat Thijssen, the University’s Sustainability Coordinator “the more hands off a system is, the more likely it is to be successful. It’s also more cost effective to integrate designs into new builds, which is why these features are more prevalent in our new construction projects. The university designs all of its new buildings to a minimum of LEED Silver and innovative stormwater features help us to achieve that.”

Native plant gardens, constructed wetland and permeable walkway at UW

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