Delta Rain Gardens Make the Most of a Natural Resource by Putting Precipitation On a Slow Road to the Ocean

Metro Vancouver Close Up logoRain Gardens capture and clean rainwater and keep runoff  from going straight into storm sewers. In Delta, they are being created with the collaboration of the municipality and volunteers, in a wide variety of locations from parking lots to schools.

Pavement and Precipitation Don’t Mix

Water is an important component of soil, along with minerals, organic matter, and air.  But paved roads and structures limit rainwater’s contact with soil. In Delta, the way water flows out of this parking lot is being re-engineered.

Sara Howie explaining rain garden construction“We will be excavating a long swale and then cutting holes in the curb and then the water from the parking lot will run through those holes into the swale,” explains Sarah Howie, an Urban Environmental Designer for the Corporation of Delta.

The swale is the beginnings of a concave garden called a rain garden.

“The idea is that a rain garden captures water from impervious areas like parking lots,” says Howie.

“It does many things, to clean the water, to cool the water,” says Delta mayor Lois Jackson. “And it all goes to the place we want it to go and that’s to help out the habitat.”

A Trickle is Better Than a Flood

Rainwater that slowly seeps into the soil is preferred over a storm sewer. Deborah Jones, the Rain Gardens Coordinator for the Cougar Creek Streamkeepers, explains why.

“In nature the water would fall on the ground and anything not used by plants and animals would trickle slowly to the creek. Whereas in our pipes systems, the drains take that water, pipe it underground, and deliver it directly into the creek. So it’s dirtier and there’s more of it arriving all at once. “

Rain and rain gardens are ecosystem services that enhance quality of life in the region.

“Water falls for free from the sky,” notes Jones. “It’s a very important resource and we waste it, straight down a drain and out to streams and then ultimately the ocean. So, much better to get that water into the ground.”

Good for Kids and Creatures

Education is a key part of the rain gardens initiative according to Howie.

“Delta has installed 10 rain gardens at elementary schools and the streamkeepers have actually installed another 7 rain gardens with high school students in North Delta.”

dragonfly on rain garden plant“It’s just a win-win all the way around,” says Mayor Jackson. “And it really leads into the future where urban areas can still be good places of habitat for fish and birds and bees and all those creatures that we seem to miss in a lot of urban areas.”

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