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Rain garden gnomes kick-off Victoria stormwater awareness

Walking through Laura Porcher’s Gonzales property is like looking 50 years into the future.

The gutters around Porcher’s roof funnel rainwater into a 1200-litre cistern, which she uses to water her backyard vegetable garden and chicken coop.

Near the sidewalk, a simple rain garden grows where there was once grass, while permeable concrete absorbs runoff along the driveway.

“It was about sustainability for me,” said Porcher, who completed the landscaping renovation last February. “It made sense to me to have something harmonious with nature that wouldn’t require a lot of upkeep, and it’s very simple and beautiful.”

In 2014, Porcher will become one of a few Victoria homeowners eligible for a full 40 per cent discount under the City of Victoria’s new stormwater utility.

For residential homeowners, the city will soon begin calculating the utility charge from the “hard area” footprint, or roof coverage, of each home. Driveway footprints will be averaged at three per cent of the roof’s footprint, while annual discounts will be available for homes that have rain gardens, cisterns, green roofs or permeable surfaces.

Permeable paving includes everything from porous concrete to gravel to “grass-crete,” or concrete stones that allow grass to grow between them, said Ed Robertson, assistant director of public works.

“They’re not excessively more expensive than asphalt driveways,” he said. “The more pressure we can take off the stormwater system helps to reduce flooding in the longterm, and it would help us to delay or reduce some of the upsizing of the system.”

The city is modelling its stormwater program on similar programs in Waterloo, Kitchener, Edmonton and Portland. Staff are planning a series of open houses beginning later this month to garner public input before presenting a report to council in January.

Homeowners eligible for stormwater credits will be able to apply annually for fee reductions, said Brianne Czypyha, the city’s stormwater management specialist.

To learn more about rainwater management and credits, visit victoria.ca/stormwater.

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