What can we do about stormwater?
Aside from not littering, putting cigarette butts in the garbage, and picking up after our pets there are still a few things we can do:
Low Impact Development or LIDs are structures that stop rain water from running off pavement, streets, and lawns by instead soaking that water up and holding it underground as forests and other ecosystems do naturally.
Rain gardens are a simple LID. They aren’t too different from “normal” gardens; they’re just a little deeper. Sometimes instead of all soil they have a mixture of sand or gravel in with the soil, this helps water to run deeper or follow a pathway created to divert and spread water out instead of running off.
Bioswales are similar to rain gardens in that they are esthetically pleasing and soak water in. They are often put next to parking areas to capture the water that runs off. The difference between a bioswale and a swale is the “bio” – the life. A swale will have no plants in it so it may look like a shapely bed of gravel.
What does ACAP CB do about stormwater?
ACAP Cape Breton has been working in stormwater mitigation for years. We have installed 33 rain barrels and 15 rain gardens through past projects with RBC Blue Water and are setting up 25 more this summer!
We have held informative stormwater workshops, including a sold out audience at the 2016 Up!Skilling Food Festival, and we published, in house, a homeowners guide called Understanding & Managing Stormwater.
In addition to working with the community, RBC, and the CBRM Wastewater Operations to install LIDs in a high impact neighborhood we are currently creating a demonstration site that people can visit to learn how to build rain gardens themselves.
Stormwater has become one of the largest sources of water pollution on the planet. Let that sink in instead of running off. Rain water. It’s a leading source of water pollution. Seriously.
Street waste: Rain carries waste like motor oil, windshield fluid, and pet leavings directly from the streets into waterways, sweeping our waste away most often without passing through wastewater treatment. …But there is no away. So every product and lubricant that’s ever run off our cars has made its way into our waterways. Some products break down naturally – some don’t.
Cigarette butts: By their very function cigarette butts filter out toxins. Where do these toxins go? They stay in the filter. The filter, one of the most littered objects. It’s estimated that one in three cigarettes smoked ends up as litter. One cigarette butt can contain up to 60 carcinogens. One cigarette butt can contaminate 1L of water to the point that it is harmful to fish. ACAP’s Trashformers team says that they find cigarette butts literally everywhere in the CBRM.
Litter: Litter is a serious issue in the CBRM. In terms of environmental issues and progress our litter problem is shameful because we’ve known about it for decades. Yet we find ourselves an entire municipality with an obvious problem. Rain washes litter “away” from ditches and road sides, but unfortunately “away” often means Sydney Harbour or the Atlantic Ocean.
Collecting stormwater in a rain barrel is always a good idea. It conserves water while keeping it from overwhelming drainage bodies. Rain barrels are generally affordable and very low maintenance.
Streams and rivers aren’t the only drainage structures that get overwhelmed by stormwater. Our municipal wastewater treatment facilities can become overwhelmed with high stormwater flows rendering the treatment process less efficient.
Planting trees and deep rooting plants not only helps water to reach great depths instead of running off but soaks water up and puts it to good use right away! Using native plants is helpful as most have deep roots and all are evolved to our climate and precipitation, which cuts down on maintenance! Nature has been mitigating stormwater for a long time. You don’t see lawns naturally occurring for a reason. Lots of plants and trees help restore ideal drainage patterns and plants naturally filter contaminants out!
Living Shorelines are restored areas of shoreline that have been, or are in danger of being, impacted by erosion due to climate change. ACAP Cape Breton piloted Cape Breton’s first Living Shoreline in Eskasoni in 2015, planting strong rooting plants on an eroding bank and installing structures to bear the impact of ice and wave action. We hope to stabilize shorelines where needed on the island in the future as well as spark an ecological shoreline trend among home owners who are concerned about the stability of their shorelines.
The future of stormwater
With the combination of climate change and urban sprawl stormwater issues can only be expected to escalate and you can bet ACAP will be there helping the community and shoreline ecosystems in prevention and response.