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Rain Ready Ottawa

What is Rain Ready Ottawa?

Brandmark of Rain Ready Ottawa

Rain Ready Ottawa is a pilot program that encourages and supports residents to take action on their property to reduce harmful impacts of rainwater runoff.

Rain Ready Ottawa offers:

  • Information on rainwater management projects for your home (see below)
  • Home Assessments that offer custom advice and solutions to your rainwater problems (Eligibility requirements apply, learn more at Rain Ready Ottawa Home Assessments)
  • Rebates up to $5,000 to help you install practices that help manage rainwater where it falls (Eligibility requirements apply, learn more at Rain Ready Ottawa project rebates)

What’s the problem with rain?

Many of Ottawa’s older urban areas were developed without thinking about managing rainwater. Buildings, streets and parking lots don’t absorb rain like natural areas do. When rain falls on these surfaces, it moves quickly into storm sewers that drain straight into our streams and rivers, picking up pollutants along the way. This can cause problems like:

  • Poor water quality in creeks and rivers
  • Increased risks of flooding and erosion
  • Habitat degradation
  • Beach closures

We all play a part in reducing the harmful effects of rainwater run-off on our streams and rivers.

Be part of the solution

What is the solution?

Soaking up the rain! Through simple actions, each Ottawa home can manage rain where it falls, helping to prevent pollution, maintain healthy creeks and rivers, and ensure our beaches stay open.

Taking on some simple ‘do-it-yourself’ yard improvement projects you can help solve rainwater issues. From simple downspout redirection to more involved projects like rain gardens, you can have an impact on the health of our streams and rivers through actions on your property. Many projects can also add beauty and curb appeal to your home, providing brilliant colours for the growing season as well as winter interest for our colder months. For many residents, properly managing rainwater also brings peace of mind by reducing the risk of surface flooding and basement seepage.

To find a project that is right for your home, see below.

If you think you need professional help undertaking your project, trained and certified Fusion Landscape Professionals can help. They have the training and experience to design, install and maintain beautiful, functional landscapes that effectively manage rainwater.

Additionally, residents in certain parts of Ottawa may be eligible for a customized home assessment and/or financial rebates to help you get your project off the ground.

Home assessments and rebates

Rain Ready Ottawa Home Assessments

A home assessment can help you find ways to better manage rainwater on your property. Home assessments take about one hour and are free for residents in priority and secondary retrofit areas in Ottawa. All advice is customized to work for your home and is provided by a trained technician that won’t try to sell you anything.

Home assessments are done by our partners at EnviroCentre, an Ottawa-based non-profit organization dedicated to providing practical solutions for people and communities to lighten environmental impact in lasting ways. Visit envirocentre.ca to book a home assessment.

Home Assessment availability is limited each year, and within certain areas of Ottawa.

Photograph of an EnviroCentre staff member completing a home assessment

Rain Ready Ottawa project rebates

Rebates up to $5,000 may be available to help you install rainwater management projects. Rebates are available in priority retrofit areas (link Priority areas) of Ottawa where studies have shown that actions on private property like redirecting downspouts and installing rain gardens are effective ways to manage rainwater.

Rain Ready Ottawa offers rebates for five practices:

  1. Downspout redirection (Up to $1,000)
  2. Rain garden installation (Up to $2,500)
  3. Soakway pit installation (Up to $2,500)
  4. Permeable pavements (Up to $5,000)
  5. Certified landscape designs ($500)

Rebates are available to residents who have completes a Rain Ready Ottawa Home Assessment or who are working with a certified Fusion Landscape Professional on their landscape.

For complete information on how rebates are calculated and specific project requirements, see the Rain Ready Ottawa applicant guide.

Check your eligibility

You may be eligible for a Rain Ready Ottawa Home Assessment to get custom advice on solving rainwater issues and/or rebates up to $5,000 to help you implement rainwater management projects at home. 

To check your eligibility, please provide your address in an email to rain@ottawa.ca.

Priority Stormwater Retrofit Areas

If your address is within Priority Stormwater Retrofit area, you are eligible for:

  • A custom home assessment to see how you can manage rainwater on your property, and/or
  • Rebates up to $5,000 to help you reduce run-off

Secondary Stormwater Retrofit Areas

If your address is within a Secondary Stormwater Retrofit area outside of the priority zones, you are eligible for:

  • A custom home assessment to see how you can reduce run-off from your property

Outside Stormwater Retrofit Areas

Ottawa residents outside of the Stormwater Retrofit areas can still make improvements to help manage rainwater on their properties. Check out rainwater management projects for your home to see if any are right for your property.

Note:

Home assessments and rebates are limited and available on a first-come, first-serve basis for eligible households.

Rainwater projects for your home

Downspout redirection

At many homes, downspouts are directed straight on to driveways. Rainwater runs quickly towards the street and into the sewer. This has advantages, but it can also cause problems like icing in the winter, and it degrades the quality of local creeks and eventually, the Ottawa River.

Adjusting your downspout to flow on to a permeable area slows the water down and gives it a chance to soak into the ground. This is closer to what happens in naturalized areas like parks or forests. Redirecting your downspouts to permeable areas is the easiest and cheapest action that you can take to manage rainwater at your home.

Follow these guidelines for adjusting your downspouts:

  • Drain to a permeable surface - especially one that is built for infiltration like a rain garden or soakaway pit
  • Drain at least 3m (12’) from your home’s foundation to an area sloped away from the home – this will help keep your basement dry especially in spring and after large storms
  • Follow the Site Alteration By-law which prohibits the drainage of rainwater on to a neighbouring property whether it is intentional or not

Check out this video on how to drain downspout water away from your house.

Photograph of a redirected downspout

Rain barrels

Rain barrels are a great way to collect water to use on your lawn and garden. You will save on your water bill and keep water in the ground instead of the storm sewers.

  • Selecting a rain barrel – rain barrels are available locally at garden supply and hardware stores. Rain barrels can also be purchased through local fundraising events(link is external).
  • Location, location, location - place your rain barrel near where the water will be used; whether it’s for washing the car and gardening tools, or watering the flower beds and the lawn. Rain barrels should be placed on a solid, strong, level surface. A full 200L rain barrel can weigh 200kg or over 400 pounds (weight of the water) plus the weight of the barrel.
  • Water at the Roots - keep rain barrel water off the leaves of edible plants and direct water into the soil around the plants instead. Drip hoses have the added benefit of slowly releasing water over time, keeping your plants well watered and making sure your barrel is ready to capture the next rain.
  • Collect the max - drain your rain barrel before each rain event to ensure your rain barrel can capture as much rain as possible; this may also help to prevent mosquito population growth.
  • Winterize your rain barrel - Before the first frost, follow these simple steps to ensure that your rain barrel continues to last for years.
    • Empty the rain barrel and drain uses completely.
    • Disconnect any hoses and leave the spigot open to prevent accumulation of water.
    • Disconnect the rain barrel from the downspout.
    • Reattach the cut portion of the downspout, or attach a temporary flexible downspout. To prevent damage, direct the downspout away from basement walls, window wells and neighbouring properties.
    • Alternately consider installing a rain diverter for easy seasonal removal and re-installation.
    • Stre the rain barrel and its attachments in the garage or other protected area. If you must leave your rain barrel outside, turn it upside down and cover. This will help to protect the barrel from the elements and water accumulation.
    • Clean the rain barrel and screens and check fr any damage.
  • Learn more about rainwater collection and health.
  • Check out these videos on setting up your barrel (video link available in English only) and maintaining your barrel (video link available in English only)

Rain gardens

Rain gardens are shallow depressed areas that promote infiltration of rainwater into the ground. They are planted with attractive hardy plants – ideally native perennials – and have loose soils that help rainwater seep down into the ground.

Because rain gardens are functional and attractive, they are the perfect addition to front or backyards and can help manage rainwater from a roof, a rain barrel overflow, or even a surface like a driveway. Rain gardens can even provide habitat for pollinators like bees.

Have a look at our rain garden guide: How to Build a Rain Garden

Rain gardens can take many forms from formal gardens with well-defined edges, to more casual gardens with a wild feel. Regardless of the style you choose, you will want to consider a few things when designing, installing and maintaining your garden:

  • Size – the size of your rain garden depends on the size of the roof or driveway that drains to it. This is called the directly connected impervious area. For Ottawa, rain gardens between 10 and 20% of the size of your directly connected impervious area are generally acceptable.
  • Rainwater entry – the area where water flows into your garden can be a site of erosion; protect this area with river stones or clear gravel to slow water down.
  • Growing medium – if the native soils you have are slow draining (<15mm/hour) you will need to mix in sand and compost to provide good infiltration and enough nutrients for your plants. Don’t mix sand into clay soils, because that will lead to clogging.
  • Plants – Plants are not just decorative in rain gardens, their roots loosen soils and maintain high infiltration rates. You should choose hardy wet-tolerant plants that can also experience periods of drought. Native perennials are the best for this and provide habitat for wild pollinators. For a full list of suitable species see this plant list or ask a local nursery.
  • Overflow – when a big rainfall comes, your rain garden may overflow, ensure you have an overflow that is resistant to erosion, flows away from your house and neighbouring properties, and it a couple inches lower than your inlet.
  • Distance from your house – rain gardens should always be at least 3m from your house in order to keep your basement dry.

Photograph of a rain garden

Soakaway pits

Soakaway pits are below-ground reservoirs of permeable material. They collect rainwater and allow it to slowly infiltrate into the ground in order to reduce run-off. Soakaways can receive rainwater from surface sources or buried sources (e.g. a buried downspout connection) and may be covered with garden, lawn, or decorative stone.

Soakaway pits and rain gardens can both help infiltrate rainwater leading to reduced run-off from your property. Soakaways are particularly helpful when space is limited or when you want to maintain grassed areas while also infiltrating rainwater.

The effectiveness of your soakaway pit depends on a number of factors including its depth, size, the natural infiltration rates of your soil, and the fill material you choose for your soakaway. Consider the following aspects when designing your soakaway pit:

  • Pre-treatment – screens and sedimentation chambers can prevent leaves and other debris from getting into your soakaway, this can improve function and extend the life of your soakaway.
  • Rainwater inlet – your inlet can be on the surface or buried under the surface, but care should be taken to make sure it is sloped away from your foundation.
  • Filter fabric / Choker course – to prevent sedimentation in your soakaway, filter fabric or a choker course (5-10cm of 5mm clear stone) should be used on top of the reservoir before the top dressing is applied.
  • Reservoir – your reservoir should be at least 90cm deep and be filled with clear stone or engineered products designed to maintain void space in soakaway pits.
  • Growing medium and top dressing – at least 30cm of soil should be applied above the filter fabric or choker course to provide enough soil for grass and you should plan for compaction. If you are planning to top the soakaway with stones, this layer can be eliminated.
  • Distance from your house – always maintain a distance of at least 3m from your home’s foundation to keep your basement dry.

Check out this brief video on how to make a soakaway pit: How to make a soakaway pit 

Photograph of a soakaway pit

Permeable pavement

Permeable pavement can take many different forms. From gravel stabilized with structural plastic, to permeable interlocking concrete pavers, to pervious asphalts, they all serve the same purpose; to infiltrate rainwater where it lands.

Along with your roof, your driveway is probably the biggest impermeable surface on your property. Reducing this area and making it permeable can reduce the amount of rainwater that runs off your property.

Technologies and practices are constantly improving to make permeable pavements more durable and longer lasting. Because of the expertise and tools required to install a permeable paved surface, you should use a qualified contractor and you must do so to be eligible for permeable pavement rebates through Rain Ready Ottawa. Certified Fusion Landscape Professionals have the training and experience to ensure you get the most from your permeable paved surface. To find a Certified Fusion Landscape Professional, visit the Fusion Landscape Professional website.

Photograph of a permeable driveway

What is the City of Ottawa doing to manage stormwater?

The City of Ottawa has a complex stormwater management system designed to collect, transport, and treat stormwater.

The Ottawa River Action Plan identified stormwater runoff as a key issue affecting the health of the Ottawa River. The City has completed in-depth studies to identify ways to reduce the harmful impacts of stormwater in two priority areas in Ottawa: Pinecrest Creek / Westboro and the Eastern Subwatersheds.

The studies recommended several actions that the City can do over the next 50 years including:

  • Rain gardens and permeable parking lots on City properties to encourage on-site infiltration
  • Streetside rain gardens to be installed as roads are reconstructed
  • A stormwater management pond at Baseline Road and Woodroffe Avenue to treat runoff in the Pinecrest Creek Subwatershed
  • Encouraging private property owners to install rain gardens and rain barrels on their properties to manage rain where it falls
  • Rehabilitating local streams to reduce erosion

Are you part of the landscape industry?

Landscape Professionals are a critical part of the solution to rainwater issues. Get in touch at rain@ottawa.ca for more information on the City's partnership with the Fusion Landscape Professional program. Becoming a certified Fusion Landscape Professional can help you better meet the needs of your clients. Homeowners in priority retrofit areas may be eligible for financial rebates from the City of Ottawa for landscape features that manage rainwater.

Ready to Apply?

To apply, you must have had a Rain Ready Ottawa Home Assessment or be planning to work with a certified Fusion Landscape Professional. You must also be located in a Rain Ready Ottawa Priority Area.

For information on the application process and step-by-step guidance, please see the Rain Ready Ottawa Applicant Guide.

Visit the Rain Ready Ottawa service page to find additional information and details on rebates and for a link to the application form.

Applications are open and processed on a first come first serve basis.

Rain Ready Ottawa rebates

Rain Ready Ottawa is a City of Ottawa program that helps homeowners manage rainwater on their properties.

Learn More