Stormwater

Stormwater is the new fire

The Insurance Bureau of Canada recently stated that for the first time in the country’s history, water damage claims have surpassed fire as the leading cause of home insurance payouts. In other words, water is the new fire.

Stormwater runoff comes from rain events or melted ice and snow. It flows across the surface of the ground rather than being absorbed where it falls.

Hard surfaces including roads, rooftops and parking areas cause stormwater to flow or run overland, unlike natural environments where stormwater can soak directly into the ground. Runoff then flows to the lowest points on the ground including curbside storm catchbasins that drain to our storm sewer system. A large network of pipes under our streets directs stormwater to creeks and streams or stormwater management ponds leading to the Grand River.

Stormwater watch

Think of it this way – we all live in a watershed. What happens on your private property can impact your neighbour and your neighbour’s neighbour. Learn more about Site Alteration in Brantford. 

How you can help the City:

  • Keep storm drains clear
  • Don’t dump grass clippings or leaves to storm gutters or catchbasins
  • Report problems to City

For more information on how you can protect your property from flooding, check out RAIN Community Solutions for Property Owners.

Follow the City of Brantford through Twitter and Facebook to stay updated with the latest stormwater news, warnings of heavy rain in the forecast and flood prevention tips.

Why we need to manage stormwater

The City is responsible for protecting public health and safety as well as the environment by managing the quality and quantity of stormwater reaching the natural environment.

When stormwater flows across hard surfaces, it can:

  • Cause flooding -  when large volumes of stormwater are generated in a short period of time, flooding can result.
  • Impair water quality – stormwater flowing across the land can carry sediments and pollutants into the natural environment
  • Cause erosion – fast-running stormwater can scour landscapes, causing erosion, destabilization of slopes and damage to property.
How Brantford manages stormwater

The main function of our storm sewer system is to drain rainwater away from our streets and parking lots by diverting the water back into our natural waterways and prevent flooding. A rain and melt-water flow into the storm drains or catch basins that line our streets and parking lots.

Stormwater flows through large underground pipes directly to outfalls or to retention ponds that then flow to outfalls. The outfall is where the piping system ends and the water enters creeks such as East Ward or D'Aubigny Creek or into wetlands, ultimately ending up in the Grand River.  

Anything that enters the storm sewer system flows directly out into our environment and is not treated by the Sewage Treatment Plant.

Stormwater management can take many forms such as structural measures like pipes and ponds and non-structural measures like studies and maintenance practices. The goal of managing the municipal stormwater system is to:

  • Ensure the free passage of stormwater runoff through the collection system from both private and public property to avoid flooding.
  • Contain and equalize stormwater flows to prevent erosion issues.
  • Settle out sediments and filter contaminants to improve water quality where discharged to receiving waters in the natural environment. 

These goals can be accomplished with a well-maintained stormwater collection system that includes stormwater management ponds and oil or grit separators found in more newly developed areas throughout the system.

Municipal stormwater infrastructure

In order to maintain and manage our infrastructure, the City has a Stormwater Management Program to operate, inspect, monitor, clean, repair, and provide emergency response for flooding and spills in the stormwater system.

Renewals, upgrades and expansion of the system due to growth are planned, designed, permitted, constructed and inspected through a Stormwater Capital Program along with studies of sub-watershed management, master servicing plans, flood investigation and remediation modeling.

Did You Know?

  • The City of Brantford operates and maintains $383 million dollars in stormwater assets.
  • The current system is designed for rainfalls of size and intensity of storms that typically occur once every 2 or 5 years on average.
  • Sanitary and storm sewer systems are completely separate
  • Roadways carry rainfall from the most intense storms as part of the overland major stormwater system along with the storm sewers that lies under the roadways as part of the minor system.

Operation and maintenance activities

The Public Works Operational Services and Environmental Services departments have a number of functions aimed at protecting the Grand River and as well as maintaining all storm sewers, and catchbasins.

These activities include:

  • Flood control
  • Coordination of spill clean-up and reporting to the Ministry of the Environment.
  • Sampling and testing all stormwater outfalls within the City of Brantford. 
  • Flushing of storm sewers on a regular basis
  • CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) of storm sewers to inspect for possible defects and debris.
  • Repair storm manholes as well as catchbasins.
  • Routine maintenance on all Retention Ponds, Creeks, Streams, and Outfalls within the city of Brantford.
  • Smoke and dye testing to find cross connections.
Spills response

A spill is any accidental or unusual release of a pollutant discharged into the natural environment from or out of a human-made container.

If a spill occurs, please notify the City of Brantford at 519-759-4150 and contact the Ministry of Environment’s Spills Actions Center at 1-800-268-6060. The owner of the spilled pollutant must also be notified. The owner of the property onto which the pollutant was spilled should also be notified.

Yellow Fish Program

The Yellow Fish Program aims to help promote awareness about the environment and educates residents on the importance of protecting our storm sewer system, creeks, and the Grand River from contaminants. Local students take a day to use stencils to paint yellow fish symbols and the words “rainwater only” beside City catch basins. The effort focuses on educating the public about the potential impact of stormwater issues directly resulting from blocked or contaminated catch basins. 

Stormwater retention ponds

We have a stormwater system made up of drains, pipes, and culverts that carry rainfall and snowmelt to receiving streams such as the D’Aubigny Creek and the Grand River. This land drainage system helps to make sure that the water will not flow through, or collect, in any unwanted places where it could cause damage.

During heavy rainstorms, stormwater runoff flows down streets, draining into catch basins along the curbs of the roads. Some catch basins direct the runoff to pipes that drain into retention ponds (also known as stormwater management ponds). The water then slowly drains from the retention ponds into the receiving streams.

Retention ponds benefit our environment by acting as a natural filter. Sediments and chemicals are removed before the water drains to our receiving streams. Sediment in the runoff settles down in the calm waters of the retention pond, and chemicals, such as lawn fertilizers, are consumed by aquatic plants. As a result, cleaner water passes from the retention ponds to the receiving streams.

Retention ponds only collect land drainage and not sewage from homes or businesses.

Storm sewer maintenance

The Public Works department maintains all storm sewers throughout Brantford:

  • All sewers line are flushed to prevent the buildup of settlement or debris over time. 
  • Regular inspections with the CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) truck assist staff in establishing condition ratings of sewer lines and identify areas in need of repairs.
  • Catchbasins are cleaned with a vacuum truck of any debris that has settled in the sumps to prevent debris from entering the storm sewer system and local creeks, Mohawk Lake and the Grand River.
  • Streams and creeks are inspected regularly for debris, to prevent flooding.
  • The Public Works department responds to spills, which may need placement of booms or absorbent to prevent a spill from entering into the storm system.
  • The Public Works department repairs all storm manholes and catchbasins as well as main sewer lines, through open cut or spot repairs.
  • Regular inspections are carried out of the dyke system and the outfalls along the dyke.
Oil and grit separators

Oil and grit separators (OGS) are used to trap and retain oil and sediment in detention chambers, usually located below ground.

Separators are often used as spill controls, pre-treatment devices or end-of-pipe controls as part of a multi-component approach for water quality control. They are typically used for small sites but sizing and design are dependent on their function. Whether separators are to be used as pre-treatment devices or in the overall design as a part of a multi-component system, it is essential to select appropriate equipment based on their demonstrated capabilities. There have been numerous applications of OGS since the 1980s and there are a variety of both proprietary and non-proprietary oil and grit separators on the market ranging from chambered designs to manhole-types.

Challenges in managing our stormwater system

Municipalities across Canada similarly face increasing challenges due to more frequent and extreme weather events. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, “Water is the new fire” in terms of the number of insurance claims it sees. With an increase in concrete landscape and the loss of absorbent ground, water has fewer places to go.

A number of challenges have increased the City’s funding pressures to sustain levels of service considered necessary for effective management of stormwater runoff. The following root causes have been identified:

  • More intense rainstorm events changing weather patterns that have resulted in more frequent, high-intensity rain events that cause flooding.
  • Ageing infrastructure (constructed 1930s to 1960s) has created large needs for capital replacement, renewal, and rehabilitation.
  • Meeting modern and evolving design standards that continue to become more demanding in addressing the environmental impacts of stormwater.
  • Maintenance of new infrastructure has added to workloads causing backlogs and increased pressure on staff. Without additional program funding to plan and deliver stormwater services in an effective and timely manner, maintenance backlogs will continue to occur.
  • Lack of public stormwater awareness can result in issues such as altered drainage patterns on properties that cause flooding.
  • Limited ability to raise funds from property taxes and competing priorities make it difficult for the City to allocate the necessary funds for stormwater management activities.
How you can manage stormwater on your property

Stormwater from rooftops collects in eaves troughs and downspouts that normally drain to landscaping, gutters or driveways. Water not readily absorbed into the ground flows overland to storm catchbasins located along street curbs to the municipal storm system.

Stormwater that accumulates in foundation drains or weeping tiles around homes may discharge to the municipal stormwater system through a private storm lateral pipe connection. In some cases, weeping tiles drain to a sump pit in the basement that is then pumped up for discharge to the ground. Changes made by homeowners that alter drainage patterns on their site can cause flooding of neighbouring properties or their own property.

Property owners can use a number of stormwater management techniques on their properties to minimize overland flooding issues:

  • Downspouts should be disconnected from foundation drains and extensions should be added to direct water two metres or more away from the foundation.
  • Landscaping around buildings should be graded to ensure that runoff drains away from buildings.
  • Landscaping to capture rain using waterwise rain gardens.
  • Increase your tree canopy to slow and capture rain.
  • Rain harvesting systems such as rain barrels and cisterns can be used where possible to capture and direct runoff away from foundations.
  • Permeable paving can be used.

Learn more about how you can reduce your risk from the Handbook for Reducing Basement Flooding.