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Rainwater and your property

Ottawa’s Rain Program

Graphics of the words Rain, Slow it Down, Soak it Up and Keep it Clean

What’s the problem with rain?

Much of Ottawa’s older urban areas were developed with little or no consideration given to stormwater management. The buildings, streets and parking lots in urban areas don’t absorb rain like natural areas. When rain falls on these surfaces, it moves quickly into storm sewers that drain directly 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 stormwater on our streams and rivers. The first step is connecting the drops.

Connect the Drops

Click the image below and start scrolling to connect the drops and learn the rainwater story in the neighbourhoods near Pinecrest Creek and Westboro Beach in Ottawa.

Story map icon

You can make a difference

Simple actions like re-directing your downspout on to grass, capturing rainwater in a rain barrel, or landscaping to encourage rain to filter into the ground can make a real difference, especially when all of Ottawa steps up. Here are three steps to get you started:

  1. Redirect to correct – ensure your downspout is flowing on to grass or garden more than 2 m from your house. If it isn’t, redirect it. Check out this video for redirection instructions.
  2. Do a storm survey - grab an umbrella and head outside during a heavy rain. How does water flow off your roof, and where does it go? Knowing these simple things can help you keep your basement dry.
  3. Take a walk - visit the Pinecrest Creek Pathway and check out the interpretive signs on the impacts of stormwater or visit a rain garden in action outside of the Cornerstone Residence on Princeton Avenue.

Rainwater Resources

The RAIN program encourages residents to Slow it Down, Soak it Up and Keep it Clean!

If you want more ideas, tips and tricks to make your home rain ready, get in touch with RAIN Coordinator, Simon Greenland-Smith.

Slow it Down - rain barrel installation and maintenance

Soak it Up - Rain gardens, Soak-away pits and Infiltration

Keep it Clean

Protect your Home from Basement Flooding

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

Contact:
Simon Greenland-Smith
Outreach and Communications Coordinator
613-580-2424, ext. 35625

Rain barrel tips

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. Often, rain barrels can also be purchased through local fundraising events. Features to look for when purchasing a rain barrel:
    • Child-safe, non-removable lid;
    • Built-in, secure mosquito and debris screening; and
    • Overflow and linking options (to other barrels).
  • 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.
  • Don’t drink the water – Rain barrel water is not safe for drinking, cooking with or bathing in. It is usually collected from a roof and can carry bacteria, parasites, and viruses from birds and animal wastes and chemical contaminants from roofing materials. The warm dark environment inside a rain barrel can permit bacterial growth.
  • Water at the Roots - if you’re watering fruits and vegetables follow these tips for a healthy garden:
    • 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.
    • Wash all vegetables with clean tap water before eating.
    • Consider installing a water diverter to re-direct the first flush of roof runoff away from your barrel. This first flush of rainwater has more roof debris and contaminants that are undesirable in the barrel.​
  • Collect the max - drain your rain barrel after each rain event to ensure your rain barrel can capture the greatest possible volume; this may also help to prevent mosquito population growth. To protect property, always direct the overflows away from foundation walls and neighbouring properties.
  • Protect your investment – rain barrels and their connections require some maintenance:
    • regularly clean and maintain your eavestroughs and downspouts,
    • consider adding screening and gutter guards to help keep leaves and other materials out,
    • ensure connections are tight,
    • clean and maintain your rain barrel annually
  • 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 hoses 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.
    • Store the rain barrel and its attachments in the garage or other protected area. If you must leave your rain barrel outside, place it in a sheltered area of the yard, 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 for any damage.
    • Learn more about rainwater collection and health.

See more tips on how to manage rainwater and Soak it Up, Slow It Down and Keep it Clean!