The City of Kingston was the first Ontario municipality to recognize the seriousness of climate change, declaring a climate emergency on Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2019. However, well before that, Utilities Kingston had begun their own efforts to educate Kingston residents on ways to save water and manage drainage and run off.
Utilities Kingston’s Water Conservation Garden has been growing since 2010. The goal was to provide an educational site to demonstrate sustainable and low-water-use gardening and landscaping practices. The Water Conservation Garden shows the residents of Kingston that they can have a beautiful garden while being water conscious. With the city implementing watering restrictions every summer, the plants featured in the garden are hardy and will perform beautifully with less water maintenance.
“The Water Conservation Garden, at 1211 John Counter Boulevard, features native, water-smart plants and sustainable gardening tips,” explained Caitlin Newey, Utilities Kingston Conservation Officer. “This space provides public education on how to use less treated water on lawns and gardens during summer peak consumption times.”
Utilities Kingston shared some of the benefits of practicing water conservation:
- Water conservation extends the life of municipal infrastructure. Water and wastewater treatment infrastructure are built to handle peak demand times, typically during the summer months from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., when, collectively, we use the most treated water. Reducing how much water we use during these peak times can reduce the need to expand pumping stations and treatment facilities.
- Much of the water from sprinklers and hoses runs off into the storm sewer, picking up pollutants that finally end up in Lake Ontario. This is known as run-off pollution. Reducing outdoor water use reduces the pollutants that end up in surrounding bodies of fresh water.
- Water conservation programs empower families and businesses to save money, reduce the environmental impact of delivering utility services, and help home owners manage excess water on their properties.
- Rain barrels help protect the environment by reducing the amount of treated lake water used for watering plants and lawns, diverting significant quantities of rainwater from the sewer system during storms. They help conserve energy by reducing the amount of water and wastewater that needs to be treated and pumped.
In the summer season, the garden is open to tours – both guided and casual – and Utilities Kingston runs Everything Drainage workshops. During these workshops, home owners learn how to handle storm water and rainfall on their property. This can help conserve water and reduces the risk of water damage, while helping to protect their neighbourhoods from basement flooding and sewage back-ups. This season, Utilities Kingston hosted 41 participants in their Everything Drainage workshops.
“The workshop leaders were very understanding, it was easy to ask questions, and the information was right on point for my needs,” said one participant of the Everything Drainage (Foundation) workshop.
The Everything Drainage workshops aim to offer helpful information to participants in a way that allows the participants to build on what they learn, explained Barb Danielewski, workshop facilitator for Utilities Kingston.
“In the first workshop, homeowners focused on protecting their basements. They had experienced moisture issues and soggy yards and were desperate for a solution,” Danielewski explained, noting that most participants planned to visit the Utilities Kingston Conservation Garden on John Counter Boulevard to get inspired and see these plants discussed in the workshop in their element.
“Many homeowners came back for a second two-hour workshop to start planning living water treatment systems for their property. They learned to guide their sump pumps and downspouts to healthy, well-draining soil and gardens, or properly constructed drywells and trenches,” Danielewski continued. “The best discussion was about the use of landscaping fabric, and many participants were interested in suppressing weeds under gravel mulches or on top of raingardens using thick layers of old newspaper instead. I was impressed by how many participants wanted to tell their neighbours about what they’d learned.”
And, according to comments from participants, the workshops did exactly what they aimed to do.
“The best part of this workshop was all the technical information, diagrams, and pointers for where to get more information. I plan to visit the Conservation Garden for more ideas,” said one participant in an Advanced Everything Drainage workshop.
Utilities Kingston would like to thank customers for their efforts to conserve water. Reducing the use of treated water also saves the electricity that’s needed to pump and treat water, thereby reducing our community’s environmental footprint. They believe that educating residents on conserving water helps empower them to make a difference.
By the numbers
At the time of publishing, the Water Conservation Garden had 144 visitors for guided tours, as well as many visitors for informal tours. Utilities Kingston is not able to track the number of visitors to the garden outside of formal tour times.
A whopping 544 rain barrels were delivered to local households, for a total of 12,405 barrels since the program began in 2006. Rain barrels allow homeowners to collect rain water for watering gardens and lawns without using treated city water. Owning a rain barrel also lets you water on any day of the week, during the restricted water use months of the summer.
And Utilities Kingston has hosted over 600 visitors to their Water Conservation web page https://utilitieskingston.com/Water/Conservation/ConservationGarden and online database of 149 water wise plants in the 2019 gardening season alone.
Did you know Utilities Kingston has #FloweringFriday posts and tweets? They have been seen more than 25,000 times on Facebook and Twitter this summer.
Visit the water wise garden at 1211 John Counter Boulevard. Educate yourself on water wise plants, and ways to avoid drainage problems on your property. Visit their website for information on creating your own water conservation garden, or to find a few new plants to incorporate into your already established gardens. Every bit of conservation helps.
Jessica is a busy working mom and writer who enjoys covering local interest stories, and creating content for her own website A Modern Mom’s Life. She loves living, working, and playing in Kingston. You can see what she gets up to with her family on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
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