Top 5 ways to reduce rain run-off

Easies, cheapest ways to limit your contribution to the stormwater system

Toronto Water has proposed a new system to charge a stormwater tax. The proposal is a result of Toronto’s overwhelmed stormwater system and its need for higher funding.

Paul Dowsett, a primary architect for Substantial T.O., an architecture firm that specializes in reducing environmental impact, has several tips for reducing run-off from your home and limit your contribution to Toronto’s stormwater system.

1. Point your drain pipe in a useful direction

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NICOLE ROYLE// TORONTO OBSERVER

“The first thing to do is disconnect your downspouts from the storm sewer system,” Dowsett said. “That’s step zero.”

It is against Toronto bylaw to have a downspout pointed at and running into the street. A lot of residential homes are not following these bylaws and are still heavily contributing to the stormwater system in this way.

Considering a rain barrel

Rain barrels are available to buy at any hardware store and Costco.

Prices of rain barrels range from $70 to $200 depending on volume and style.

The easiest step towards reducing stormwater impact is to simply redirect downspouts and storm drains into a garden or yard. The picture above shows the water being directed into a rain garden and is being stopped further by a large rock placed between the garden and the street.

2. Put down your rakes

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(Nicole Royle// Toronto Observer)

The fresh-cut green lawn is actually not effective in stormwater run-off reduction.

Letting fallen leaves turn into mulch creates an extra permeable layer in your yard that absorbs nearly all storm water.

The mulch yard is unappealing in early spring before the plants grow, but once summer hits the visuals are rewarding.

Next time you go to a nursery or to pick up seeds, look for Toronto natives. Consider planting them between your property and the street to catch any remaining run-off.

3. Plant native

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Nicole Royle// Toronto Observer

Plants that are native to Toronto are adapted to our climate and absorb the appropriate amount of stormwater.

Planting native trees and shrubs

The best time to plant is before summer (April-May) and right after (October-November).

In order for trees to grow they need enough moisture in the soil. Allowing for leaves to turn to mulch and soak up stormwater will create perfect conditions.

Plants like Hens and Chicks and Sedum flowers are great with water absorption and need little maintenance. If you’re looking to plant trees, maples and oaks are native to Toronto and do well for yards.

Native trees and plants can be bought at any Toronto nursery.

Next time you go to a nursery or to pick up seeds, look for Toronto natives. Consider planting them between your property and the street to catch any remaining run-off.

4. Don’t repave, crush brick

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NICOLE ROYLE //TORONTO OBSERVER

Wherever solid pavers are needed, (in the case of this photo, there are solid pavers under the tires of the car) they should be bordered with permeable materials.

Paving vs. permeable costs

“Any paver would lay down pavement or crushed brick for the same price,” Dowsett says. “If anything it would cost less.”

A popular permeable driveway material is crushed brick. The cost of filling crushed brick is comparable to repaving a driveway.

Stormwater will run along the solid pavers and absorb into the permeable material before it reaches the street.

“I think a lot of people think it’s easier to shovel my driveway if it’s all one uniform surface,” Dowsett said. “But I have no trouble shovelling my driveway. It’s not an issue at all.”

5. Green lawn be gone

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Nicole Royle// Toronto Observer

“Lawns are really bad for wreaking storm water,” Dowsett said.

The short, maintained blades create a slick surface that water runs off of. In the picture to the right, water runs off of this green lawn and into the mulch.

Pointing a drain pipe at a front lawn will only slightly reduce the amount of water running into the street. If you want to keep the green lawn, consider adding a rain garden to the front of your property and using the storm drain to keep it constantly watered.