November 11, 2014 – Climate change is the new reality. It is a global phenomenon that affects us locally with severe weather, flooding and drought. Credit Valley Conservation’s Christine Zimmer is exploring innovative engineered solutions that allow our urban areas to adapt. While delivering the keynote address at the November 3 Professional Engineers of Ontario certification ceremony, Zimmer encouraged the next generation of engineers to think outside-the-box to engineer greener, safer communities in light of climate change.
Storms that statistically occur once every 100 years now happen more frequently. The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) experienced four such storms in the last 10 years. The July 8, 2013 storm that was felt in south Mississauga, among other communities in the GTA, was the most costly in Ontario, with an estimated $900M in insurance claims. Burlington experienced over 200 mm of rain in one day earlier this year and Newmarket had two 100-year storms in one week. One or more Ontario municipalities have declared a state of emergency almost every year since 1995.
Zimmer leads Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) in engineering green infrastructure technologies and practices, also termed low impact development (LID). Permeable pavement, rain gardens and other innovative technologies being piloted by CVC treat rainwater where it falls, reducing flooding and filtering water naturally before it enters storm sewers, conventional stormwater ponds and our waterways. This reduces the stress on the GTA’s aging infrastructure.
“Engineers have an important role to play in protecting our communities from the effects of climate change,” said Zimmer. “The way our communities are developed can heighten or lower the risk of flooding, property damage and injury. Engineers save lives and have a duty to safeguard public welfare. Engineers need to think outside-the-box to develop the climate change solutions of the future.”
One of CVC’s LID sites, installed in Mississauga’s Lakeview community, involves a series of rain gardens and permeable pavement on a residential right-of-way instead of a traditional curb and gutter solution. The features are a beautiful addition to the neighbourhood and the City of Mississauga saved close to 25 per cent compared to a traditional stormwater management approach.
In light of July 8, 2013 storm, many businesses see the need to adopt on-site stormwater management features to protect their investments, in addition to relying on the municipal stormwater management infrastructure. This is a lot like hiring a private security firm while also relying on municipal police. It makes sense financially and the cumulative effect of many LID sites can lower the burden on our municipal stormwater management system. IMAX partnered with CVC to incorporate a permeable parking lot and other innovative stormwater controls at their headquarters in Mississauga. The stormwater controls can treat almost half of the rain seen during the July 8, 2013 storm. These green technologies will protect IMAX from the next big storm. The permeable parking lot will last twice as long as a conventional asphalt parking lot.
“There is the perception that trying something new is too risky but our monitoring results show that business as usual is not sustainable and actually results in more risk,” said Zimmer, noting that some of the early LID approaches piloted by CVC did not perform as expected. “We learned from the results, focused our efforts and refined our approach. Newly licenced engineers need to find new solutions to existing problems. Innovation drives success and our duty of care as engineers demands nothing less.”
Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) is the licensing and regulating body for engineering in the province. It fulfills the same role for engineers as the College of Physicians and Surgeons for doctors or the Law Society of Upper Canada for lawyers. PEO’s licencing process demands an extra measure of competence and dedication. Licenced engineers must be technically competent, and adhere to the ethics and standards that are the hallmark of professional engineering. Engineering graduates, who become professional engineers (P.Eng.), indicate to their clients, their co-workers, the public and others, that they are committed to safeguarding the public welfare. PEO licence holders work to guarantee the public’s safety and promote its interest where engineering matters are concerned.
Christine Zimmer is the Senior Manager of Water Protection and Restoration for CVC. She is recognized as an expert in low impact development – innovative green technologies used to manage stormwater as close to its source as possible. She has worked with over 75 private and public sector partners, raising over $ 3.6 million dollars to implement and monitor over 25 low impact development demonstration sites.
Conservation Authorities are a provincial/municipal partnership. CVC was established by an act of the province in 1954 with a mandate to protect all natural resources other than minerals in the area drained by the Credit River. We have been working for 60 years with our partner municipalities and stakeholders to protect and enhance the natural environment of the Credit River watershed for present and future generations. CVC is a member of Conservation Ontario. CVC gratefully acknowledges financial support from our member municipalities for facilities, programs and services: the Regions of Peel and Halton; the Cities of Mississauga and Brampton; the Towns of Caledon, Erin, Halton Hills, Mono, Oakville and Orangeville; and the Townships of Amaranth and East Garafraxa. CVC is a member of Conservation Ontario.
Christine Zimmer is the Senior Manager of Water Protection and Restoration for Credit Valley Conservation.
Credit Valley Conservation regularly monitors the performance of low impact development features in Mississauga’s Lakeview community.
Credit Valley Conservation and the City of Mississauga partnered to install a low impact development feature on a road right of way along Elm Drive in Mississauga.
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