Can nature’s own water management processes effectively deal with stormwater runoff in urban environments? The Town of Okotoks, AB, and its partners have proven that it can. Their Living Soils Filtration Project uses different soils and plants to capture, filter and disperse stormwater, which improves water quality, increases green space, enhances biodiversity and reduces the risks from extreme climate events.

Project demonstrates green infrastructure benefits

The project is an example of Low Impact Development (LID), or green infrastructure, which uses the natural water management processes. The site’s main bioretention bed (also known as a rain garden) is a 3,600-square metre riparian buffer that uses native plants and permeable soils to store, filter and manage stormwater. The system removes excess nutrients to improve water quality and decreases the flow rate of the water released into the river ecosystem, reducing the risk of flooding.

Less costly natural system benefits residents, the environment

Improving water management at the site moderates the risks and effects of extreme climate events. Restoring native vegetation increases soil stability, promotes biodiversity and creates an enjoyable green space for residents. The green space will be toured by school age children as part of the project’s Environmental Education Centre. The initiative also respects and enhances an existing site of cultural significance to a local First Nations community.

Partnership generates research and knowledge for other communities

This initiative is a collaboration between the Town, the Universities of Calgary and Victoria, the City of Calgary and regional partners. University researchers at the site are examining two types of research, the performance of different soils and vegetation to clean and filter stormwater, and convert methane to CO2 and water—research that is expected to benefit other communities interested in similar projects.

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