What is Rain Ready Ottawa?
Rain Ready Ottawa is a pilot program that encourages and supports residents to take action on their property to reduce the harmful impacts of rainwater runoff.
Rain Ready Ottawa offers:
- Information on projects for your home (see below) including a series of self-guided eLearning courses to help you implement rainwater management projects
- 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.
What's 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.
See Rainwater projects for your home below for more information.
Rain Ready Ottawa Program Offerings
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 full for 2022. If you are currently on the waitlist and a spot becomes available, Envirocentre will contact you by email to book an assessment time. Visit the EnviroCentre website to connect with them directly connect with EnviroCentre.
Rain Ready Ottawa rebates
Rebates up to $5,000 may be available to help you install rainwater management projects. Rebates are available in priority retrofit areas (see eligibility) 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:
- Downspout redirection (Up to $1,000)
- Rain garden installation (Up to $2,500)
- Soakway pit installation (Up to $2,500)
- Permeable pavements (Up to $5,000)
- Certified landscape designs ($500)
Rebates are available to residents who
- Are located in Priority Stormwater Retrofit Area (Check your eligibility below)
- And one of:
- have completed a Rain Ready Ottawa Home Assessment, or
- are working with a certified Fusion Landscape Professional to complete their project, or
- Have completed the relevant Rain Ready Ottawa eLearning courses
For complete information on how rebates are calculated and specific project requirements, see the Rain Ready Ottawa applicant guide.
Priority Stormwater Retrofit Areas
If your address is within the 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
- Self-guided eLearning courses
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
- Self-guided eLearning courses
Outside Stormwater Retrofit Areas
Ottawa residents outside of the Stormwater Retrofit areas are eligible for:
- Self-guided eLearning courses
If you are in an area outside the priority and secondary stormwater retrofit areas, you 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.
Home assessments and rebates are limited and available on a first-come, first-serve basis for eligible households.
Coming soon to Rain Ready Ottawa!
We are pleased to announce that Rain Ready Ottawa is launching a series of eLearning courses. The courses will provide a self-guided learning opportunity about rainwater management techniques that can be put into practice around the home.
The completion of the courses will allow residents in priority areas become eligible for Rain Ready Ottawa rebates without the need for a home assessment or use of a Fusion Landscape Professional
Four courses will be offered:
- Stormwater introduction and program overview
- Downspout redirection
- Rain garden installation
- Soakaway pits and trenches
Courses will launch in late spring. Course enrollment is free for all residents with an Ottawa address.
Please submit your email if you would like to be notified when the courses launch.
Rain Ready Ottawa programs are targeted to areas that were built before adequate stormwater management measures were common. Ottawa is divided into three sections;
- Priority stormwater retrofit areas,
- Secondary stormwater retrofit areas, and
- Outside stormwater retrofit areas
Check which area you are in below.
Rainwater projects for your home
Rainwater is great for your garden, but not so good for your basement. Redirecting your downspout can enhance your property and help keep your basement dry!
Many people experience wet basements after a big rainfall and often this can be fixed by positioning your downspouts properly. Follow these three guidelines for optimal performance:
- Drain to a permeable surface - especially one that is built for infiltration like a rain garden or soakaway pit
- Drain at least 3m (10’) 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 onto a neighbouring property whether it is intentional or not
A great downspout redirection can be as simple as repositioning an existing downspout to ensure it drains to a permeable area.
Splash pads help reduce erosion by slowing water. They are widely available and inexpensive.
Our top solution for people looking to enhance their property. Downspout extenders come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they will all help you move rainwater away from your foundation.
Or, get creative!
Enhancing your property is about adding beauty as well as function. Get inspired and be creative. Incorporating unconventional materials and even repurposed items can add interest to your front or back yard. Check out these ideas:
Rain chains control the flow of water from your eavestrough to the ground. They can be simple or ornate; either way, they add interest and function to your property. They can be perfect for small roofs like porches and awnings over exterior doors. Remember to direct the rain away from your home once it gets to the ground.
Flowing water can add tranquility and peacefulness to your yard. cascades are a captivating use of rainwater and an awesome opportunity to get creative and repurpose materials or give new life to old items.
Well done masonry looks good and lasts a lifetime. Impermeable materials like stone can help draw rainwater away from your foundation (recommended 3m+) for a low-maintenance property enhancement that helps protect against wet basements.
The benefits of redirecting your downspout
Not only can redirecting your downspout enhance your property, but it can also benefit the environment. Most rainwater flows untreated to local creeks and eventually the Ottawa River. The rain can pick up pollutants like oil, pet feces, pesticides, and heavy metals which harm aquatic environments in our City.
Draining to a permeable area reduces the amount of rain – and pollutants – that flow into creeks and rivers. Rain Ready Ottawa is the City of Ottawa’s plan to help residents manage rainwater on their property.
A proper redirection can help eliminate slip-and-fall hazards around the outside of your house. In the fall and spring, ice build-up can create hazards where downspouts drain to impermeable surfaces like footpaths.
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 are shallow depressed areas that promote the 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 habitats 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 into 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 is a couple of inches lower than your inlet.
- Distance from your house – rain gardens should always be at least 3m from your house to keep your basement dry.
Soakaway pits are below-ground reservoirs of permeable material. They collect rainwater and allow it to slowly infiltrate into the ground 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 several 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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.