In Artesia, through its bioswale system, water is filtered naturally and then used to irrigate all of the community’s common areas and home sites — saving approximately 60 million litres of water a year.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia has found that Alberta is embracing cutting-edge, alternative storm water management technologies. The province sits at the forefront of innovation and joins British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec in its widespread use of low-impact developments (LIDs) in urban planning and new community design.“Canadian storm water management systems are facing challenges around every corner from climate change to aging infrastructure,” says engineering professor at UBC Okanagan and the study’s co-author, Rehan Sadiq.But not only that, Sadiq also notes that when urbanization is added to the mix, potentially dire consequences could result.The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Management, was designed as a tool to assist governments with incorporating LIDs into urban planning.LID refers to site design practices that reduce the impact of water runoff and allow the water cycle to flow more smoothly.But many developers in Alberta aren’t waiting for government intervention. They are taking the bull by the horns and spearheading cutting-edge technologies and designs on their own — designs that are setting the bar for future development.“One thing that we are accountable for as leaders in the community is the question of how we change and drive policy, especially around resources like water,” says Birol Fisecki, president of Bordeaux Properties, the co-developer, along with Qualico Communities of Harmony, a new master-planned lake and golf community in Calgary’s Springbank area that demonstrates cutting-edge sustainability features.“Education is such a big part of tying a loop around the three tenets of the triple bottom line — fiscal, social and environmental, says Fisecki.Harmony utilizes an integrated water strategy.All water conveyance in Harmony is handled through a series of catchment areas that lead to medium-sized wetland areas, which then lead to larger-sized wetland areas. The storm water is filtered through natural grasses, mud and sand. The design is beautiful, creates a nature-filled amenity space for residents and attracts abundant wildlife and birds, while efficiently filtering, and cleaning storm water.“It’s a different approach than what happens in the inner city. There the rain from the streets goes into the gutters and picks up all the junk like asbestos dust from brake pads to whatever is in the yards and that provides a massive injection into our river systems of water that isn’t desirable.”But Harmony didn’t stop with just creating naturalized wetlands. The water flows from the wetlands into the man-made lake, where it is filtered further and then ozonated. An onsite water treatment plant, one of the most advanced in North America, then cleans the water using a bio-membrane filtration system.The community of Artesia, by Brookfield Residential, located in Heritage Pointe, is another example of outside-of-the-box thinking when it comes to water conservation and storm water management.Brookfield Residential earned the Developer Pinnacle Award, the top honour in the community developer class, at the 2018 BILD (Building Industry and Land Development) Alberta Awards.“From the beginning, water conservation and management was paramount in Artesia’s design. It features one of the most innovative irrigation and rainwater harvesting systems in southern Alberta,” says Tiffany Ardolino, senior manager, customer development at Brookfield Residential.The 56-hectare community is more than 50 per cent green space with pathways, water features, ponds and private amenities. Nature is at the centre of the design and LID initiatives include a system of bioswales to filter what is commonly referred to as the first flush — the first and often most polluted volume of water resulting from a storm event. The shallow, landscaped depressions capture, treat and filter storm water runoff as it moves downstream and are often integrated into roadways — cul de sacs and medians. Bioswales also recharge groundwater.Through the bioswale system, Ardolino says that the water is filtered naturally and then used to irrigate all of the community’s common areas and home sites — saving approximately 60 million litres of water a year.In Brookfield’s community of Livingston in Calgary’s new north, the community’s design utilizes an array of water conservation techniques from bioswale systems to naturalized wetlands, along with various landscaping and building sustainability measures, including native landscaping and rain barrel use.Brookfield joins an array of developers and builders in Calgary who are also taking those extra steps to encourage water conservation, whether it’s promoting rain barrel use, xeriscaping lawns, installing low-flow faucets and toilets or a combination of all.In Harmony, rail barrels, Energy Star appliances and low flow faucets and toilets, have reduced water use by 62 per cent.“The largest most important thing that we can do is reuse water. I think the province is realizing that it is crazy that we are cleaning water to drinking water levels just to pour it out on our grass.” says Fisecki.