Innovative Stormwater Management: The Role and Use of Wetlands

On May 19th, I was lucky enough to attend the Innovative Stormwater Management workshop presented by North Shore Wetlands Partners, held at the Pavilion in Stanley Park.  The four-hour workshop was incredibly informative and was presented by some of the Vancouver’s top professionals in the field of wetland biology, hydrology, and construction and design.  With some many interesting and intelligent speakers that spoke on such a range of topics from innovative stormwater management, to insect control, to wetland designs and functions.  It was hard to keep up writing down all the notes, at one point I had to borrow a pen because mine ran out of ink!  

Dr. Michael Jackson from Acroloxus Wetland Consultancy had a fantastic presentation on a community approach to wetland restoration which was a case study on the Ruby Lake Lagoon Society and the success they have had with the local community in promoting wetland restoration.  He mentioned that in order to reach communities, everyone in the community had to be involved especially children, and in order to do that they hold events like BBQ’s, and their annual Bio Blitz.  This event involves members of the community especially children to spend an entire day collecting as many plants and insects around the lake in order to identify as many species as possible at the end of day.  Also this year they will be hosting the Sunshine Coast Biodiversity Summit on May 31st, with the goal of increasing the communities ability to become sound stewards of biodiversity on the Sunshine Coast and protect the ecology of the area for years to come.

Its important to be constantly learning, and I personally strive to learn something new every day.  I had no problem doing that on Saturday where another presentation I found extremely interesting was Dr. Ken Ashley’s (from B.C.I.T.’s ecological restoration program) presentation on Wetland design and functions.  Dr. Ashley described in detail the differences between created wetlands that are built to mitigate the loss of natural wetlands, restored wetlands which return a natural wetland from a degraded condition back to being functional, and constructed wetlands whose primary purpose is for water treatment and flood control.

Of the constructed wetlands there were two types; one that received surface flows of water, and the other that receives subsurface flows of water by being piped into the wetland.  There are a few types of constructed wetlands; two kinds of wet ponds, infiltration basins, and grassed treatment swales.  Wet ponds are basically what they sound like, a drainage facility that come in the form of a permanent pool of water.  They have two functions; one that will treat only conventional pollutants coming from impervious surfaces in the urban environment, like oil from your car, and the second, which can treat excess nutrient run-off like Nitrogen, or Phosphorus from agricultural lands.  Infiltration basins on the other hand allow stormwater to percolate into the groundwater but do not hold any permanent water, as do grassed treatment swales usually found on the sides of highways or roads that are a sloped grassed channel designed to absorb run off associated from the roads they are adjacent to.  I was extremely impressed when Dr. Ashley stated how inexpensive some wetland constructions could be and the benefits that these wetland constructions could have on our local waterways, being more efficient than some wastewater treatment facilities being built in major cities.

It was awesome being able to spend my afternoon listening to individuals so passionate about what they do and learning about even more of the benefits wetlands can and will have in the urban environment.  I can’t wait till the next workshop!

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