City Council endorses a paradigm shift in how the city manages water in all its forms.

Description

City Council on Nov. 5, 2019 endorsed a paradigm shift in how the city manages water in all its forms: groundwater, rainwater, wastewater, drinking water and surface water. Rainwater on both public and private lands is to be managed close to where it lands: returning water to the ground or atmosphere, re-using it, treating runoff and diverting rainwater from the city’s sewer pipe network.

Significance

  • Vancouver has experimented with several pilot and demonstration projects over the past two decades. By approving the Rain City Strategy, the City sets the standard for management of all water services while reaffirming the previously-adopted performance target for 2050 of managing 90-per cent of Vancouver’s average annual rainfall of about 1,500 mm.
  • Also the City set an ambitious target of managing rainwater volume and water quality for 40 per cent of Vancouver’s impervious areas through new development, capital and renewal projects, and strategic retrofits. Currently, 0.5-per cent of streets and public spaces and a few hundred private developments manage rainwater from impervious areas.
  • The strategy also increases the required design standard for the volume of rainwater to be managed to 48 mm per day, from 24 mm a day, in both public and private spaces. 
  • The strategy is intended to provide a roadmap for climate emergency and resilience, combined sewer overflow mitigation, protection of ecosystems, integration of policy and planning, improvement in regulatory compliance, and restoration of watersheds.
  • The policies are expected to restore the natural water cycle in Vancouver, allowing water to return to plants, trees, aquifers and streams. Pollutant currently flowing into False Creek, Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River are to be reduced, leading to improved fish health. Water is to be diverted from the sewer pipe system, reducing the overflow during heavy rainfalls. The current system of pipes is inadequate for the water flow and the combined water and sewage currently overflow the pipe system, discharging into the waters around the city during heavy storms.

Background

  • The Rain City Strategy identifies nine directions and three action plans that articulate 46 programs related to streets and public spaces, buildings and sites, and parks and beaches.  In conjunction with approval of the Rain City Strategy, Council directed staff to undertake preliminary scoping work for the False Creek-to-Fraser River “Blueway,” and to continue city work on watershed revival and greenway development plans.
  • The City has already designed and put in place 238 green-rainwater-initiatives, including infiltration trenches, bio-swales, bio-retention bulges, rainwater tree trenches, permeable pavements and a wetland that manages street rainwater run-off from the adjacent community. Rainwater management policy for private developments has led to green-rainwater-initiatives on 170 sites.
  • Some examples include enhancement projects in and around Still Creek, storm-water wetlands (e.g. Hinge Park at Olympic Village), a saltwater marsh at New Brighton Park, and opening up the Spanish Banks Creek. Projects envisioned and/or underway include Tatlow Creek, opening up a fish ladder at Beaver Creek in Stanley Park, and a stormwater wetland at John Hendry Park to improve Trout Lake water quality.

Previous Council decisions leading up to the Rain City Strategy

  • VanPlay: Parks and Recreation Services Master Plan (2019) 
  • Resilient Vancouver Strategy (2019) 
  • Climate Emergency Response (2019) 
  • Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (updated in 2018) 
  • Cambie Corridor Utility Servicing Plan (2018) 
  • Rain City Strategy Update (2017) 
  • Complete Streets Policy Framework (2017) 
  • Green Building Policy for Rezonings (2016) 
  • Biodiversity Strategy (2016) 
  • Citywide Integrated Rainwater Management Plan (IRMP) (2016) 
  • Healthy City Strategy (2014) 
  • Urban Forest Strategy (2014) 
  • Transportation 2040 (2012) 
  • Greenest City 2020 Action Plan (GCAP) (2011) 

The 1995 Greenways Plan includes notable themes focussed on active transportation, nature in the city, clean air and water, place-making and increased biodiversity in and around our city. 

Transportation 2040 includes objectives to design streets as part of green networks to support local ecosystems, provide access to nature, and improve the natural shoreline. 

The Greenest City Action Plan’s Goal 6 “Access to Nature”  provides support for blue-green systems planning. 

Sources

Rain City Strategy. City Staff report. Nov. 5, 2019. https://council.vancouver.ca/20191105/documents/rr1aAppendixA.PDF.

Integrated Blue-Green Systems Planning. City Staff Report. Nov. 5, 2019. https://council.vancouver.ca/20191105/documents/rr1b.pdf.

Green Rainwater infrastructure in Vancouver. Appendix to City Staff Report Nov. 5, 2019. https://council.vancouver.ca/20191105/documents/rr1aAppendixB-F.PDF.

Rain City Strategy documents and policies

Reports

Management plans

Policies