Every five years, Ontario’s Conservation Authorities release report cards on the health of our watersheds. The report cards all measure forest conditions, groundwater quality and surface water quality, and some include other metrics such as wetland or impervious land cover. Recently, Conservation Halton released their 2018 Watershed Report Card.
The Conservation Authority found that in more urbanized areas surface water quality, and forest conditions ranged from poor to very poor. While in the Greenbelt, “we have better surface water quality, more robust forest cover and lower amounts of impervious cover” says Kim Barrett, Associate Director, Science and Partnerships at Conservation Halton.
Healthy lands and waters in the Greenbelt are essential to building healthy, sustainable communities in Ontario. Investing in the health of the Greenbelt is essential to providing clean air, fresh water, local food, active outdoor education, and climate resilience.
“With climate change we are seeing water come in the form of more frequent, intense weather events which are taxing systems that were not built to handle them” says Kim. Green infrastructure is a cost-effective approach to mitigating the impacts of intense weather, and ensure we are resilient to climate change.
When asked why Conservation Halton turned to Green Infrastructure, Kim mentioned that, “why turn to a constructed solution that will deteriorate over time and ultimately fail without ongoing maintenance, if you can achieve the same ends by using living, productive natural features which also bring with them a host of other environmental and socio-economic benefits that appreciate over time?”
Green infrastructure can take the form of restoration of wetlands and re-vegetating areas along urban river valleys and existing infrastructure. These natural upgrades increase the amount of rainfall that is naturally absorbed, reducing the burden on aging storm sewers and reducing the risk of floods.
Photo Credit: Conservation Halton , Glenorchy Conservation Area
Conservation Halton “has created 6 hectares of new wetlands and 35 hectares of pit and mound forest at Glenorchy Conservation Area in Oakville. These natural features reduce peak flows, promote infiltration and moderate runoff, in addition to providing excellent plant and wildlife habitat”, said Kim.
When Conservation Halton renovated their staff parking lot in 2012, they included green infrastructure features into the design. A bioswale was installed in the parking lot, which “is designed to reduce runoff volume by 56% during a 100-year storm”, says Kim. By retaining stormwater, and cleaning the water, AND by providing a habitat for native pollinators. Now that is very impressive!
Photo Credit: Conservation Halton (CH), installing green infrastructure in CH’s parking lot.
While not all the green infrastructure projects have been at the community level, residents are encouraged to install green infrastructure in their yards. Conservation Halton hosts a series of workshops that engage residents on how stormwater is managed in the community, gardening with native plants and landscape features, rain gardens and low-impact landscaping.
“Last year, with support from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, we initiated a program to help residents offset the cost of implementing the techniques learned at our workshops” say Kim. Find out more about the cost assistance options.
Right now, the conservation authority is in the design process of revitalizing the corporate headquarters in Lowville to maximize green infrastructure opportunities. Once complete, Conservation Halton will use to site to “showcase examples of low impact development projects to inspire our local communities”, says Kim. If you live in Halton Region, check it out!
Want to learn more?