The last month brought a lot of rain to the city of Toronto which has led to the Toronto islands being half submerged and a temporary (and lax) travel ban to be put into effect. The rest of the city has fared slightly better. The city has slowly been improving its water management over the years by implementing green roofs and providing more green space along ravines to absorb water. That’s not enough to deal with the increased rainfall from climate change. Over at the CBC they have an article looking at effective ways that Toronto is already using and what more can be done.
Of course, the techniques used in Toronto can be applied to many other cities.
The water that makes it past collection systems or soaks through green spaces ends up in Toronto’s sewer system.
In cases of a heavy downpour, that can send a mix of storm and sanitary water into Lake Ontario, due to the city’s combined sewer system.
While the city has dedicated reserves for storm water, it has no choice but to pump the mixed sewage and storm water into the lake during extreme rainfall.
Repairing the damage humans have done to the environment is a slow process but it can be done!
Thanks to policies put in place by leading economies (the article sites the American Clean Air Act from the 1970s) the acidity levels in the atmosphere has returned to a balanced level. This proves that we can combat climate change using existing political tools – we just need the political will!
“We can see that the acid pollution in the atmosphere from industry has fallen dramatically since manmade acid pollution took off in the 1930s and peaked in the 1960s and 70s. In the 1970s, both Europe and the United States adopted the ‘The clean air act amendments’, which required filters in factories, thus reducing acid emissions and this is what we can now see the results of. The pollution of acid in the atmosphere is now almost down to the level it was before the pollution really took off in the 1930s, explains Helle Astrid Kjær.
Canada Blooms is a competition to demonstrate one’s ability to display flowers. In the past it was based on the look of the arrangement done in a garden, now they are expanding how they think about flowers. This year they want people to submit rain gardens to the competition.
Rain gardens are preferred because they use water that falls from he sky instead of draining local aquifers or other finite sources. It’s good to see a Canada Blooms caring about the environment and hopefully they will become more conscious of nature with every year.
“Rain gardens are a brilliant concept,” says Terry Caddo, General Manager of Canada Blooms. “By creating some small adjustments in your home garden you can not only create a fuller, lush garden, but you will also help improve water quality in nearby bodies of water and ease the strain on our environment.”
Rain gardens are natural or man-made rainwater runoffs that allow storm water to be soaked into the ground and plants rather than flowing into storm drains. By diverting the water that would eventually drain out to local rivers, lakes or to the sea, rain gardens help prevent erosion, water pollution and flooding.
Earlier this year, Toronto suffered some severe flooding and city planner Jennifer Keesmat composed this great tweet:
One of those programs she is referring to is the tower renewal program which helped energy conservation, local ecologies, and improve housing conditions. Toronto’s mayor ensures these programs don’t get funding.
Here in Toronto where we have a druggy mayor who hates the environment who also sat in an idling SUV during the flooding (idling is illegal in the city). The mayor has gone out of his way to ensure that Toronto treats the local environment worse than it did the year before. I mention this as a contrast to what is happening in England’s biggest city.
In London, they have a mayor who actually knows that climate change is happening and the city is doing something about it. London is no stranger to threat of flooding, indeed the Thames barrier’s lifetime has been reduced due to the increased pace of climate change. With most usable space already consumed, what is the city to do?
London has turned to constructing green walls! The walls absorb water that would otherwise contribute to flooding within the city by soaking up rainwater.
The wall captures rainwater from the roof of the hotel in dedicated storage tanks; the rainwater is then channeled slowly through the wall to nourish plants, simultaneously reducing surface water on the streets below. “The plants themselves will take up rain too, so the rain doesn’t fall on the street below,” says Beamont.
During the design process, Grant picked out native ferns, English ivy, geraniums, strawberry and primroses for the living wall, using the Royal Horticultural Society’s pollinators list as a guide. “My approach is to use native species in natural associations, however sometimes it’s not practicable because of problems with availability or a lack of visual interest or late flowering,” he says. “It’s still necessary to choose plants that are known to thrive in living walls, or are likely to thrive in living walls, and are suited to the aspect and microclimate.”
Read more at Co.Exist.
Toronto and area received massive rain fall last week and one suburban community has decided that the need to encourage better water management through taxes. Basically, if you pave over green space you’ll literally pay for it. THe idea is to preserve as much green space as possible to act as a natural sponge during large rainfalls.
As a bonus, the preserved green space will also act as a natural coolant for the local environment.
Powell says a user-fee levy is expected to get final council approval by the end of the year.
Dan McDermott, the Ontario chapter director for the Sierra Club, says the proposal makes perfect sense.
“It’s a very clear disincentive to paving over or covering over your whole property. If you’re going to put up a parking lot, you need to leave enough ground space to let the water naturally drain.”
McDermott says governments need to incorporate that kind of thinking when they plan or approve new structures.
Mississauga faces special challenges because of its short history, Powell said.
“All of this infrastructure built by development charges, by developers, all of a sudden has to be rehabbed by tax dollars. That’s where the pressure comes; that’s what Mississauga is facing over the next 10 years.”