Brooklyn Hall

Rain garden teaches students the value of water

Oak and Orca Bioregional School students in Victoria learn the value of water with a unique rainwater system.

A local school is now the home of a new educational and functional rainwater system.

“It’s essentially a garden that has a lot of water storage capacity within it,” said Catherine Orr, University of Victoria environmental studies graduate student and leader of the rainwater system project. “What we’re trying to do here is mimic natural systems within how we manage rainwater currently.”

The rainwater system is located at Oak and Orca Bioregional School in Victoria, and runs almost the entire length of the school site. The rainwater is collected from the school’s roof into the 960-litre cistern and flows through an educational play feature and into a bioswale, a linear trench with specialized soil and plants, then drains into a native plant rain garden. The majority of the water drains into the rain garden, with very little passing through the stormwater system. During a heavy rainfall, the system will slow the runoff down and improve the water quality before entering the storm drain.

“What we don’t realize a lot of the time here in the city . . . is that outlets points are receiving water that is polluted,” said Orr.

Being located at a school, Orr said this rain garden will serve mainly an educational purpose, but will still be functional.

“The kids will be maintaining the rain garden as well as the rest of the system,” said Orr. “So they’ll do things like weeding, and . . . sediment does build up in these over time, so maybe twice a year they’ll have to get the sediment out of the rain garden.”

Smiler Overton, a teacher at Oak and Orca, said the rainwater system will be a good opportunity to incorporate hands-on learning with classroom lessons.

“It gets kids thinking about how we’re in an ecosystem, we’re not masters of it,” said Overton.

The entire system at Oak and Orca cost about $20,000, not including all of the time Orr spent on the project as a graduate student.

“The most expensive part is connecting to the storm drain,” said Orr.

The project was funded and supported by Mitacs, the Real Estate Foundation, the City of Victoria, the Capital Regional District, Murdoch de Greeff Inc., Vancity and the RBC Blue Water Project.

“We wanted to support the notion by promoting the educational aspect [of] learn[ing] what rainwater management is all about,” said John Sturdy, assistant director of engineering and public works at the City of Victoria.

 

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