RiverSides Launches the Toronto Homeowner’s Guide to Rainfall
Earlier this week, Toronto residents learned of the latest on urban water issues at RiverSides’ launch of the Toronto Homeowners’ Guide to Rainfall, available at www.torontorainguide.org.
Jennifer Hounsell, the Program Director for RiverSides, said the event gave participants an opportunity to be the first to access the new website and learn how they can prevent the damaging effects of storm water runoff.
“While this is a celebration of the website, it’s also a time to speak with our neighbors about the kinds of pollutants that are ending up in our rivers, lakes and streams,” she said.
Over 70% of the City of Toronto has been paved over to make way for buildings, parking lots, roads, and sidewalks, which prevent more than 50% of the rain that falls on the city from soaking into the soil.
Instead, the rain runs across these hard surfaces and results in a fast, hot and dirty flow of storm water into our storm sewers and ultimately into our rivers. During heavy rain events, the volume of water rushing into the city’s combined sewer system can be 25 times more than normal. This can lead to combined sewer overflows – the discharge of raw sewage into our rivers and waterfront. According to figures released by the city, there are nearly 70 combined sewer overflow incidents every year, a figure well known to Hounsell.
“Too many people don’t understand the impact that storm water has on the city. The rain storm last August alone demonstrated the awesome power that stormwater can have – and the cost. The city incurred over $34 million in repair costs for that single event. If our city surfaces could absorb more rain where it falls, the impact of heavy rain events like this one would be much less significant.”
Storm water can also contain sediment, sewage, pesticides, road salts, pet waste, oil and grease, which flows untreated into our rivers.
“Urban runoff is the largest source of pollutants to our rivers, most of which are generated by all of us in our daily activities. It only takes 15-30 minutes for pollutants to travel from your yard to our local rivers via the storm sewer system,” said Hounsell.
The Toronto Homeowners’ Guide to Rainfall is dedicated to educating Toronto residents about the everyday impact they have on our watersheds. As an online portal to urban water issues in the city, the guide includes in-depth information on everything from impermeable surfaces, urban runoff and Toronto’s watersheds, to harvesting rainwater, naturalizing your property and conserving water.
“The guide helps people better understand how water moves through our city, as well as providing tips on how they can reduce storm water runoff – beginning right in their own backyard,” said Hounsell. “People will be surprised by the simple things they can do at home to help improve our local water quality.”
Some of the recommendations in the guide include stopping roof runoff by disconnecting your downspouts from the sewer system and installing rain barrels, naturalizing your yard with native plants, replacing paved surfaces with permeable pavers or interlocking brick, conserving water through rain water reuse, and going toxic-free by eliminating the use of chemicals such as pesticides and road salts on your property.
When it comes to cars, the guide suggests making sure they’re properly maintained so that oils and greases don’t end up on pavement and wash away with the rain, and using a commercial carwash to keep your vehicle clean instead of doing it yourself at home. They use less water and collect and treat the carwash runoff.
“We all need to make the connection between what we do at home and the health of our local rivers,” concludes Hounsell. “We have the ability to change our actions for the better and I’m certain Torontonians will find the guide a useful and highly informative resource to do this."
The Toronto Homeowners' Guide to Rainfall, available at www.torontorainguide.org, is supported by the City of Toronto Community Program for Storm Water Management, and Environment Canada's Science Horizons Program.