City grant to help homeowners reduce runoff

·2 min read
For some homeowners, capturing runoff can be as simple as redirecting a downspout to an area that can absorb all that water.
For some homeowners, capturing runoff can be as simple as redirecting a downspout to an area that can absorb all that water.

(CBC - image credit)

The City of Ottawa will launch a pilot program this spring to help homeowners capture more stormwater on their own properties, diverting runoff from city sewers and helping keep gardens green.

Homeowners in neighbourhoods inside the Greenbelt, as well as some parts of Orléans, will be able to apply for a free professional consultations that will give them ideas for retrofits.

Financial incentives of up to $5,000 will also be available to help some homeowners cover the cost of installing permeable driveways, rain gardens or "soakaway pits" where water can be absorbed, as well as redirecting downspouts.

The grants will be available to those in the Westboro and Pinecrest Creek areas, as well as homes near waterways in the east end including Green's and Bilberry creeks, the focus of studies in 2011 and 2019.

Those studies looked at the poor water quality in creeks, erosion, flooding and beach closures that occurred downstream from older neighbourhoods that weren't built with stormwater ponds, now commonplace in newer subdivisions.

"Encouraging homeowners to manage runoff on their properties offers the most cost-effective opportunity for stormwater management," Julia Robinson told the city's standing committee on environmental protection, water and waste management on Tuesday.

Training landscapers

City staff acknowledged it can be hard to motivate residents to retrofit their properties for environmental reasons without incentives, so they analyzed 75 similar projects in North America for ideas.

Ottawa's stormwater pilot project is to last two years, during which time city staff expect their total budget of $750,000 to finance 125 projects. They plan to report back in the fall of 2023 with ideas on how to keep the program going long-term.

City of Ottawa
City of Ottawa

In the meantime, staff say even those areas that aren't eligible for the grants could see some benefit, thanks to a public awareness campaign that could help more DIY-inclined homeowners retrofit their own yards.

The city will also subsidize a training program offered by Landscape Ontario to train local landscapers to incorporate stormwater mitigation into their designs.

"Love it, love it, love it," said Coun. Keith Egli, whose Knoxdale-Merivale ward residents will be eligible for the retrofit grants. "I think this is a great program. If we have to kind of sugar-coat it and call it landscaping as opposed to good environmental stewardship, if it works, it works."

The pilot project goes to city council for approval on Feb. 24.