A rainwater management pilot project in Bedford is showing encouraging early results in terms of public participation, according to the Organisme du Bassin Versant de la Baie Missisquoi (OBVBM), which has spear- headed the project along with the Town of Bedford and the MRC of Brome-Missisquoi.
The project involves strategic placement of rain gardens – gardens with particularly chosen plants whose roots absorb large amounts of water – and rain barrels on residential streets. Over the course of the spring, nine barrels were set up on Rue Demers and three gardens were planted, two in front of private homes on Rue Hébert and one in front of the community centre.
Daniel Moreau is a technical advisor with the Town of Bedford. He explained that due to the way the town’s water and sewer networks are set up, rainwater flows into the sewer network after heavy rains, increasing the burden on the town’s water treatment plant. In addition to the pilot project, the town has also removed some asphalt to plant grass along Rue Massicotte, and worked with the OBVBM to change the town’s gutter bylaws so rainwater would no longer flow directly into the sewer system. The goal, he explained, is to get as much rainwater flowing into the soil, not the sewer.
Moreau said the town had other methods in its arsenal as well, such as catching rainwater with absorbent sheets, and that progress is being made on separating the water and sewage networks.
“With climate change, we can expect more intense rain, and the flow of water can be problematic if we don’t deal with it,” he said.
Improved rainwater management even has implications for the housing crisis, according to Moreau. “The more we reduce the amount of rainwater going into the water treatment plant, the more we can consider having new housing developments built,” he said.
Pierre Leduc is the board chair of the OBVBM. He said the organization and the municipality have been working together to solve the rainwater problem since 2019. While the impact of the specific rain garden and rain barrel pilot project is hard to measure, Leduc said “people are getting into it.”
“If you’re the first person to do a thing like this, sometimes people will give you a funny look, but when it becomes admirable, then more people will do it,” he said. “We have had two really dry summers and a few really intense rain events, which can overload the sewers — they weren’t necessarily built for what we are experiencing now,” Leduc said. “If we can deviate some of that water and every individual can keep the water on their land and let it soak into permeable surfaces – into your rain garden or into your grass – we can reduce the pressure on the network.”
The town of Bedford is still seeking two households on Rue Hébert to volunteer for the rain garden pilot project. To volunteer, or for more information on how to set up a rain garden or rain barrel on your own property, contact Daniel Moreau directly (firstname.lastname@example.org. qc.ca) For avid gardeners interested in learning more about rain gardens, how- to videos and documents are available on the OBVBM website (obvbm.org).