The environmental benefits of the RAIN Program
by Ericha Moores, volunteer communications assistant
Rain is just as much a part of the natural cycle of life as sunshine. So, why does an environmental charity like Reep Green Solutions have a RAIN program and what exactly is it?
RAIN is a program that was developed by Green Communities Canada with the objective to address the problems associated with stormwater runoff. Specifically focusing on ways in which individuals and communities can be active agents of positive change while encouraging green infrastructure in their communities.
While rain may be part of a natural life cycle, what happens to it once it reaches the ground is often not natural. In fact, there are problems that are associated with our current stormwater management that ultimately affects the quality of the water that we drink and the water that is found in our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans.
The negative environmental impact of storm water
So, what exactly are the negative environmental impacts of storm water runoff?
Well, in order to understand the environmental impacts, we must first understand the current stormwater management that our communities have. The way in which our cities were built has resulted in a disruption in the natural water cycle. There are several different stages involved with the water cycle, however, when our urbans areas were built, they sealed surfaces and covered land with impermeable surfaces (such as roads, roofs, driveways, and parking lots) – meaning water could no longer be absorbed into the ground. The main objective of our current stormwater system is to get the water off of our roads and properties in a timely fashion. It directs water to our storm sewer systems and, ultimately, our rivers and our lakes.
Therefore, it is not surprising to learn that due to current stormwater management, our water systems have become increasingly polluted. As water runs through our urban environment, it picks up toxic chemicals, such as oil and pesticides. Because storm water is not treated before it enters rivers and lakes, these chemicals subsequently end up in our waterways. This affects the quality of water, as well as the surrounding ecosystems (beach closures?)
There are also issues related to flooding and erosion – both of which represent threats to our environment, our properties and, again, the quality of water. Due to the reduction in permeable surfaces and less vegetated areas to absorb water, when it rains or when snow melts, the volume and the speed at which stormwater runs off is substantially increased. This can result in flooding which can have very costly impacts on our private properties and infrastructure. Additionally, this large amount of runoff can lead to erosion along stream banks which further exacerbates the issue of flooding as sediment clogs channels and pipes, while also negatively affecting the ecosystems for the aquatic life.
Solutions that benefit the environment
However, there are solutions to these aforementioned issues! You and your community can improve the current stormwater management system through the implementation of RAIN.
There are three main ideas that RAIN encourages:
- Capturing and storing rain water with rain cisterns, releasing it gradually and using that to water your garden.
- Planting native trees and bushes in order to make our gardens soak up more water.
- Building a rain garden.
- Increasing the permeability of hard surfaces, such as your driveway so that water can be soaked through.
- Trying to minimize the chemicals that you use in your household, for example, using natural fertilizers in your garden.
In using these simple principles and applying them to your own property, you are actively participating in improving your community’s water quality and decreasing the negative environmental impacts!
Check out the recent reports of The Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation to learn more about the importance of managing storm water.