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How much Grandview water goes into Rivers?

By Alisa Ramakrishnan, GHSA member

Before gabbing about how I did this and why, I’ll put the answer first (this is for a development area about 500m long and 500m wide):

liters of rain on a rainy day
2005 is pre-development, 2014 is after building five townhouse complexes (over 400 units) and over 150 single family homes. Over 1 million liters of rain falls on the roads on a really rainy day.

 

I’ve been watching the rain collect on my narrow streets and run down the drain into fish habitat.

SONY DSC

Every time it rains, I wonder how development has affected the amount of road runoff that ends up in rivers and streams.

 

I did some basic analyses to get a general idea. I chose a recently-developed area, about 256,000 square meters (thanks COSMOS mapping program!), and highlighted the roads (not rooftops or driveways…let’s say that developers have used sub-soil gravel diversions and other techniques to divert that runoff into soil).

glenmore et al road runoff
2005 and 2014, developments east of Grandview Corners (24th Ave & 160th St); roads are colored blue.

I looked at climate data from Environment Canada from a weather station in White Rock, and saw that on rainy days in winter, 10mm was pretty normal, while 30mm was a higher rainfall day. I used Photoshop to calculate square meters of roads, then estimated liters of runoff water. There are no swales here, so road runoff goes right into fish habitat.

About 8 times more road runoff is running into fish habitat after development compared to before. By the way, the detention ponds you see in the picture might hold about 1 million liters each, from my estimates (if they average about 1.2m deep). They’re basically to catch overflow from the drainage pipes, when more water falls than can fit in the pipes. I don’t know what the capacities of the drainage pipes are…but Surrey’s website says it all goes into the rivers without being treated.

I think it’s a bit optimistic to think that 1,000,000L/day won’t have a significant impact on river water quality.

You long-term residents will think I’m astonishingly ignorant, but I’ll plunge on anyway. After visiting a nearby hatchery, I learned that the rivers around here are used by salmon! Maybe the runoff from this development goes to a different area somehow, but the signs on every drainage grate, and the City of Surrey’s own information, says otherwise. “It is important to know that any road run-off flows directly into local creeks and watercourses.”

This Canada government website highlights the dangers of development such as we see here.

There are alternatives – ways to mitigate road runoff. Portland’s Green Streets initiative comes to mind. They use curbside swales, pervious pavement, rain gardens, gutter cut-outs, things like that, to divert water from rivers and streams. Another Oregon website has excellent pictures that show how to do it. And here’s another document, from  California, with marvelous pictures and information.

I’ve seen lots of roadside plantings and curb extensions here that could very easily be modified to soak up some of the road runoff. Maybe that sort of thing doesn’t work here; I admit I didn’t grow up here, and there’s a lot I don’t understand. But I think we should consider doing something to reduce road runoff. It’s worth a shot.

Dr Ramakrishnan’s article is re-blogged from Save Sunnyside Trees

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and are presented here by the GHSA to encourage healthy debate. The GHSA Blog exists as a resource to enable members concerned with the environmental and community stewardship of Grandview Heights to voice perspectives. When directors of the Association contribute to the blog, they do so as private citizens, not as officers representing the Association. The GHSA reserves the right to edit, condense or reject any contribution.

Guest Blog by Bob Ransford: “Multi-generational Community Planning”

I’ve been attending public meetings about community planning and development for more than 35 years. I’ve sat through more than 300 public hearings about rezonings, community plans and development projects in municipalities throughout the Lower Mainland.

I have attended probably double that number of open houses, planning committee meetings, design panels, neighbourhood planning workshops and charettes.

No, I’m not looking for expressions of sympathy. I’ve been there willingly. Often, I’ve participated as a concerned citizen and almost as often, I’ve been there because it’s part of what I’ve been making my living at for the past 25 years.

I’ve learned a lot observing or participating in the process that shapes our neighbourhoods, towns and cities. I’ve witnessed what works and what doesn’t work in planning and designing the housing that we live in. I’ve learned that planning and building a town or city is not easy. It’s all about balancing a wide range of interests and making a series of trade-offs. I’ve learned that most people don’t initially engage in the tough issues about community building to seek compromise. Compromise comes after a lot of discussion.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t assume that everyone comes into the room with the same level of understanding and knowledge. I’ve learned that it takes a long time to move people from focusing on their self interests to focusing on the community’s interest. I’ve also learned that when you spend the time trying to do this and you are successful, often people will realize that their own interests can best be accommodated on that common ground that they’ve discovered.

But the most profound thing I’ve learned is that too often, the wrong people are in the room. That has led to long and non-productive processes. It’s led to unreasonable expectations and plans that fall far short of what’s really possible.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve scanned a room full of people who are voicing their concerns about a long-term community plan and have seen nothing but people like me — those of us with a lot of grey hair.

I’ve sat through too many public hearings on new housing developments where speaker after speaker objecting to a developer’s plan were people much older than the demographic cohort that the project was designed to accommodate. Far too often, those participating in planning and influencing the important decisions are not the people who will be most impacted by those decisions over the long term.

There are 2.3 million people living in Metro Vancouver today. By 2041, less than 30 years from now, there will be another million people living in the region. Most of the housing we are building today will be no more than halfway through its lifespan 30 years from now. A lot of that housing will be occupied then by people who are less than 30 years old today.

That demographic cohort — young people 10 to 29 years of age — represents about 26 per cent of our current regional population. You don’t see many of them at public hearings and planning workshops. They aren’t tweeting about housing developments and most of them aren’t reading community newspapers every week to find out what’s happening in their backyard. Most simply aren’t engaged in civic issues.

Another demographic cohort that isn’t deeply engaged today are the people who will be occupying the homes we are building today as retirees and in the golden years of their lives. Those who are 30 to 54 years of age today — representing 38 per cent of today’s population — are simply too busy to be involved in civic issues today.

They are raising families and working hard, trying to earn a living. In our connected and fast-paced modern world, their lives are busier than they ever expected when they were young. They can’t find the time and energy to attend public meetings.

So who is in the room? Who is packing the public hearings and lining up at the speaker’s podium to try to convince municipal councils to slow the pace of change? The majority are usually people 55 years of age or older. Today, this group represents just over a quarter of the current population. In 27 years, when the housing we are approving today is just short of halfway through its life span, the youngest of this demographic cohort will be 82 years old.

I am not saying the voices of these people shouldn’t be heard. But their voices need to be among a whole chorus of collaboration that includes the people whom the change we are planning today is meant to accommodate.

We need to find new ways of reaching out to the people who are going to be living 25 and 30 years from now in the housing, neighbourhoods and towns we are planning and building today.

We need to engage them in the discussion, trade-offs and decisions that are the key ingredients of good long-term plans. They are the ones who are going to live with what we plan today.

 

Bob Ransford is a public affairs consultant with Counterpoint Communications Inc. He is a former real estate developer who specializes in urban land-use issues. Email: ransford@counterpoint.ca or Twitter:@BobRansfordThis opinion piece was originally published in the Vancouver Sun, March 21, 2014

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and are presented here by the GHSA to encourage healthy debate. The GHSA Blog exists as a resource to enable members concerned with the environmental and community stewardship of Grandview Heights to voice perspectives. When directors of the Association contribute to the blog, they do so as private citizens, not as officers representing the Association. The GHSA reserves the right to edit, condense or reject any contribution.