March 18, 2005

Let it Rain Conference

I attended the one-day Let it Rain conference at Douglas College today.

"A Conference on Managing Rainwater Runoff with Low Impact Development Methods"

It was a very interesting event. Over a hundred people attended, with lots of representation from various municipalities in the lower mainland, the GVRD, developers, engineering firms, and NGOs (environmentalists).

The very short of it: There is a paradigm shift underway.

We are rapidly moving from piping ALL rainwater to attempting to preserve natural conditions as much as possible in the face of inevitable development. People were upbeat, and many of the engineers/developers presenting were actually leading the charge. Many of them had 30+ years of experience and admitted that in that time they had personally shifted from a "pipe everything" approach to a sustainability approach.

A common theme was "it doesn't matter if it costs more, it's the right thing to do, and costs will come down in the future." This was in reference to building permeable surfaces, swales, SEA streets, "country lanes" a la recent Vancouver back lane experiments, rain gardens, roof gardens, LEEDs buildings, detention/retention facilities, etc. This was reiterated passionately by both city staff and consulting engineers in response to questions about costs, acceptance by society, etc. Of course the fact that lots/developments next to creeks and nature command hefty premiums is also a driving factor :-).

Overall a very useful event, and I hope the organizers do it again annually, or perhaps every couple of years.

Oh, one neat idea that popped up was no longer talking about "stormwater management" but shifting to "rainwater management." Presenter Don Moore said that MS Word always flagged "stormwater" as incorrect, while "rainwater" was OK, and that led him to think about changing all uses of "stormwater" to "rainwater." It is rain after all, not just storms, and "stormwater" has developed negative connotations, such as flooding.

So from now on, no more "stormwater management," its "rainwater management." :-)

Posted by Paul at March 18, 2005 10:27 PM