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Evaluating voluntary stormwater management initiatives in urban residential areas : making recommendations for program development in the City of Vancouver Hatziantoniou, Yota

Abstract

As riparian and aquatic areas experience continued degradation from the pressures of human development, there is an increasing realization by watershed managers that measures must be taken to restore the urban hydrological cycle. Voluntary stormwater management and water conservation practices, such as those advocated by the Engineering Services Department (ESD) in Vancouver, British Columbia, provided an opportunity for homeowners to participate in the management of their water resources. Unfortunately, due to a number of unknown factors, the stormwater pilots in this city failed to receive the widespread adoption that was required for their subsequent expansion. To inform the design of an integrated water management program that is capable of attracting a sufficient number of participants, a program evaluation framework was developed to assess the Downspout Disconnection Pilot Project, the Perforated Sump Pilot Project and the Rain Barrel Program in Vancouver, as well as the more popular Downspout Disconnection Program in Toronto, Ontario. Interviews of government staff and program participants, as well as reviews of theoretical and program literature, were used to understand the program variables that may have contributed to the different rates of program uptake observed in each city. The results of the evaluations have been used to inform the design and implementation of future stormwater management initiatives in urban residential areas, as well as to recommend specific areas of program improvement for the City of Vancouver. The specific areas of program improvement identified include: i) dedication of adequate program resources, ii) implementation of complementary policies, iii) exploitation of opportunities for interdepartmental collaboration, iv) innovative program promotion, v) facilitation of homeowner participation, and finally, vi) monitoring of program performance over time and adoption of change. Through the design and implementation of an integrated water management program, the City of Vancouver would be able to demonstrate a commitment to innovative problem mitigation and environmental leadership, while helping to limit the impacts of urban (residential) runoff on the quality of its receiving waters.

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