Approximately five billion litres of rainwater fall on the UBC campus annually. The University also has four watersheds that drain from campus, and sits on a natural aquifer, a porous, layered bed of sand and gravel that holds water. The Vancouver Campus Plan outlines the specifics of how we manage the volume of stormwater at UBC.
What is stormwater?
Stormwater is essentially rain or melted water resulting from any form of precipitation. Typically, stormwater moves through a natural water cycle by seeping into the ground, getting absorbed by vegetation and evaporating back into the atmosphere. This natural water cycle can be interrupted when development occurs. For instance, paved roads and other built structures may prevent natural absorption of precipitation. In this context, stormwater management is important in order to achieve greater harmony with the water cycle and ensure stormwater is effectively routed back to its natural environment.
UBC’s approach to stormwater management
Innovative and sustainable approaches to stormwater management are currently being developed and implemented on the Point Grey campus. Such practices include stormwater retention, green roofs, cisterns, rain gardens, bioremediation and sediment control to improve water quality. Rather than whisking stormwater away through underground storm sewers, stormwater is also being used to provide irrigation for landscaped areas, decorative water features and planted vegetation to naturally clean the water.
Benefits of stormwater management at UBC include: avoiding the pollution of ground water or neighbouring bodies of water, becoming less taxing on conventional stormwater management systems such as sewers and adding aesthetic value to the campus where possible.
Stormwater Management Innovations
Several areas on the UBC campus illustrate our efforts to advance stormwater management approaches and systems.
Wesbrook Place, a UTown@UBC residential neighbourhood, uses stormwater flood control techniques like rainwater retention, green roofs, rain gardens and sediment control to improve water quality. Rather than whisking stormwater away through underground storm sewers, surface water is captured in attractive pools, to provide irrigation for landscaped areas. Landscape features at Michael Smith Park also demonstrate our commitment to effective stormwater management.
Sustainability Street is a vibrant, public space on campus that connects people, ideas and technology. The pedestrian-oriented promenade is a practical demonstration of new approaches to managing waste, energy and water in an urban environment.
The street’s stormwater system collects and treats water in a small space, naturally filtering out water-borne contaminants before stormwater enters the water table and surrounding streams. Sustainability street is the world’s first closed loop water recycling and reuse system that integrates stormwater management, wastewater treatment and ground-source geo-exchange to heat and cool adjacent academic buildings.