Bedford bets on gardens for water conservation

By Ruby Irene Pratka – Local Journalism Initiative

After two unusually dry years, every drop of water has taken on additional importance in Brome-Missisquoi. The town of Bedford is hosting experimental water conservation and erosion prevention projects as part of a provincial program, in collaboration with the MRC Brome-Missisquoi and the Organisme de bassin versant (OBV) de la baie Missisquoi.

Nathalie Grimard is the director of land management services at the MRC. She explains that the MRC received $750,000 in funding through Phase 2 of the Programme Climat municipalités, overseen by the Quebec Ministry of Environment and the Fight against Climate Change. That funding has been invested in a three-part program; supporting urban water conservation efforts in Bedford, controlling of runoff in the Lac Davignon basin and modifying agricultural practices to reduce erosion. The specifics of the agricultural and Lac Davignon watershed programs will be explored in future editions of Brome County News.

“The MRC adopted a water and erosion control action plan several years ago, and the provincial subsidy represented a great opportunity to try new things,” Grimard says, referring to Bedford as a “trial laboratory” for water conservation. “We are trying new projects to see if they work, and we plan to have other municipalities reproduce the projects that work.”

In Bedford, the pilot projects involve the distribution of rain capture barrels and the promotion of rain gardens. A demonstration rain garden was put in place on the grounds of the community centre earlier this year. The city has also replaced some asphalted surfaces with grass, according to Grimard.

“A rain garden is basically a flower bed, with plants that are especially good at absorbing water,” explains Anthoni Barbe, communication and project manager at OBV. A rain garden can also brighten up a gardener’s front yard – plants that are good fits for rain gardens include popular flowering varieties of irises and daylilies, according to Barbe. “The idea is that the water from the gutters can be redirected into the soil instead of flowing into the wastewater network. Next spring, we’ll follow up [with residents] and offer to set up rain gardens, so we can measure the impact on our water networks. We’ve already approached residents to get their buy-in.” The OBV hopes to install six to eight rain gardens in residents’ yards next spring; the cost to residents is yet to be determined.

Rainwater capture barrels will also be distributed for free next spring to about a dozen residents living in areas where rainwater flows downhill. “Rain barrels are useful because when people capture water, they reduce the amount of water that goes into the wastewater network. The barrels are connected to hoses, so people can use them to water their gardens,” says Barbe.

“Rainwater doesn’t need to go into the wastewater network; we can divert it into the soil to reinforce the water table,” says Barbe. He says that in addition to participating in the pilot projects, residents can protect the water table by making a few small changes to what they buy and how they manage water on their property.

“There are all kinds of action you can take…make sure the water from your gutters doesn’t flow directly into the street, reduce your pesticide use, recycle, compost and buy fewer throwaways. We know what we can do to have a positive impact on water quality.”

Bedford director general Richard Joyal was not available to comment at press time.

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