Reported by Vivian Chui
Langara College is offering a new rainwater management course this fall, in answer to rising demand for sustainable water systems in Vancouver.
The course is an elective for the certificate program in organic landscape management, and recognized by the Canadian Association for Rainwater Management. Ken Nentwig, executive director for CANARM, is set to start the course Oct. 18.
“Water itself is becoming a huge issue worldwide, and although we’re blessed with all kinds of it, we still have shortages,” said Nentwig in an interview with the Voice. He is the instructor for the rainwater harvesting and management course.
“Our urbanized lifestyle exploits water, but it is a finite resource that’s becoming more and more precious,” he said.
UBC associate professor in geography, Andreas Christen, who specializes in urban climate research, said 60 per cent of rainwater is lost from urban areas, as opposed to five per cent lost in forests.
“With paved roads and roofs, most of the rain is lost horizontally, while little is absorbed in the soil, leading to a drier climate and heating up the city,” said Christen.
Infrastructure is the key to water conservation
Nentwig said managing rainwater provides two main benefits: storm water control and potable water conservation.
“Without proper infrastructure, especially during heavy rain, storm water runs off urban systems leading to floods, erosion, pollution, and destroyed habitats. Collected storm water can then be used in situations where potable water is not necessary such as toilet flushing, garden landscaping and fire storage suppression,” he said.
With an emphasis on solving students’ rainwater problems in the context of climate change and urban water cycle, the course is taught from a hands-on perspective, Nentwig explained.
“It would appeal to those who have a high appreciation for the environment already, as well as the up-and-coming niche market of landscapers, irrigation contractors and rural homeowners who have an unstable water supply,” Nentwig added.
Cities such as Victoria and Abbotsford, are looking to reduce storm water taxes by reintroducing rainwater to the ground through structures such as permeable pavement, says Langara Sustainable Communities Program Coordinator Peggy Harowitz. “They are starting to hire people who have sustainable landscaping knowledge.”
Currently low in registration, the course may run in January 2015 instead.
“It’s taking time to build traction,” Harowitz said.
Listen to Michele Koppes, PhD, and UBC Assistant Professor of Geography, talk rainwater management and the new Langara course.