Diverting water benefits you and your neighbourhood
Municipalities across the country are trying to correct a mistake made decades ago when sewage pipes and storm drains were laid out below ground. The problem is that the two sets of pipes run to the same place: the sewage treatment plant. During heavy rains, the treatment plants at the end of the line are overwhelmed by the volume of liquid (rain or otherwise) and the excess, including raw sewage, flows untreated into nearby lakes and rivers.
Here’s where you come in. Your eavestrough funnels the water running off the roof to one or more downspouts. In many urban homes these downspouts are connected to the storm sewers via a standpipe. Disconnecting your downspout(s) and diverting the water to the lawn helps reduce the chances of sewage overflows.
The volume of water from a single house will accumulate-almost 72,000 litres (16,000 gallons) of storm water over the course of a year. It’s easy to see why the beaches along Lake Ontario are often closed to swimmers.
There are a few different disconnection programs out there. Toronto city workers, for example, will do the disconnection for you, free of charge. And the City of Vancouver offers rain barrels (more on these in a moment) to residents at the subsidized price of $60.
But even if your city doesn’t have an official program, you can do it yourself. The disconnection is a relatively cheap and easy Saturday morning job. And the benefits to you and your neighbours are multifold.
Aside from improving your own water supply, disconnecting downspouts also benefits homeowners directly. If, for example, the standpipe it feeds into is cracked, you could have water running out against the foundation-and potentially even into the basement-every time it rains.
And if you choose to divert the water into a rain barrel (see photo above), you also have the added benefit of a constantly replenished supply of warm, oxygenated, non-chlorinated water to use on your garden and houseplants. Not to mention saving some money on your water bill.
If you’d rather not go to the expense or don’t have the space for a rain barrel, there are several other affordable options (at about $10 to $15 each) for dispersing the water: from a length of downspout ending at a splash pad and flip-up elbows to self-retracting plastic sleeves and flexible polyethylene tubes.
Just don’t forget to plug the standpipe with concrete or a rubber cap before you call it a (rainy) day.