Taking care of creation by restoring the urban water cycle

Guest post by Alix Taylor, Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Green Communities Canada

Scattered throughout our cities are multiple places of worship that vary in age and structural condition. As places of community, solace and shelter we should consider how to make these buildings resilient in the face of climate change.

There are many innovative ways that buildings and properties can be protected from water damage while reducing our impact on the environment. Green Communities Canada (GCC) and our members have developed a suite of resources and initiatives that support individual residents, churches, schools and businesses to make changes to land and buildings, to protect them from increased rainfall events while protecting the health of our waterways.

One initiative, Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 9.07.52 PMDepave Paradise, helps us to reduce our environmental footprint while creating beautiful places to reflect and pray. Community groups partner with churches, schools, cities and businesses to coordinate workbees that tear up unused asphalt and replace it with usable green space. The act of depaving and re-greening inspires us as community members to work together to beautify our community.

Hard surfaces such as driveways and parking lots interrupt the natural water cycle by preventing rainwater from soaking into the ground. Removing pavement and replacing it with native vegetation slows the movement of water, allows it to be naturally filtered through soil before entering our waterways, and recharges our groundwater supplies.

The value of depaving is clear to participants. After depaving 102 square meters of asphalt and creating a butterfly garden and a naturalized seating area at the Kitchissippi United Church in Ottawa, Church Council Chair Doug Patriquin said the plan was to create a “welcoming, green and vibrant space.”[1] Faith Formation Leader Andrea Prazmouski said ”We’re pleased to do our part to help bring some balance back to the (water) cycle.”[2]

Faith communities can also learn how to be more respectful of water and protect their homes and infrastructure from water damage by participating in RAIN Community Solutions. RAIN teaches people how to soak up rain, slow runoff and keep runoff from their property clean. Information provided through individual visits can help property owners reduce the risk of flood damage to buildings, collect rainwater for gardens, protect drinking water and,in some communities, save on municipal stormwater fees

With support from GCC member organisation REEP Green Solutions the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Waterloo created an “oasis in the heart of the city” and saved money by creating a rainwater catchment system that irrigated their extensive gardens. “Many parishioners feel very proud of our accomplishment in this step towards harvesting rainwater,” said Alan Coughlin, a member of the Green Passion ministry. “The community will see that it is possible to store and divert rainwater from storm sewers and take care of creation.”[3]

If you are interested in learning more about how to protect your place of worship from water damage while helping to restore the urban water cycle RAIN Community Solutions will be hosting a webinar, in partnership with Faith and the Common Good, on Wednesday November 18 at 1:30 EST. Additional information about our programs and local program partners can be found online at www.raincommunitysolutions.ca


[1] ‘Depaving’ project will restore welcome green space. Kitchissippi Times, June 13, 2014. http://kitchissippi.com/depaving-project-kitchissippi-united-church/

[2] Depaving may be the solution to reduced urban flooding. Construction Comment, July/August 2014. http://www.oca.ca/constructioncomment/archive/2014/2014-07/index.html

[3] The Church of Saint John the Evangelist. REEP Green Solutions. http://reepgreen.ca/the-church-of-saint-john-the-evangelist/