December 14th, 2023

Peterborough resident Ellie Dustler stands behind a rain barrel acquired from the GreenUP Store and Resource Centre. A rain barrel acts as an all-season water conservation tool. By collecting rain water, residents can save money, improve how indoor and outdoor plants are watered, and help reduce the pressure on the local municipal stormwater system during flooding events. (Photo: Melynda Dustler)

Peterborough resident Ellie Dustler stands behind a rain barrel acquired from the GreenUP Store and Resource Centre. A rain barrel acts as an all-season water conservation tool. By collecting rain water, residents can save money, improve how indoor and outdoor plants are watered, and help reduce the pressure on the local municipal stormwater system during flooding events. (Photo: Melynda Dustler)

By: GreenUP

Conservation champions come in all shapes and sizes. Water conservation champions come in all seasons and abilities.

This year, GreenUP was supported by the Peterborough Utilities Group to offer a Rain Barrel Subsidy and Water Wise Landscape Recognition Program. Both of these programs teach people about the importance of water conservation.

In 2023, GreenUP sold 213 rain barrels to customers eager to enhance or level-up their water conservation journey this year.

The iconic, recycled red barrels that GreenUP distributes are one way to protect water during the spring, summer and fall months. Rain water run-off from roofs is collected by the barrel. This helps slow down and reduce the amount of water rushing into the storm water system in a rain event.

The water collected in a rain barrel can also be used to water gardens and nourish indoor plants before it enters the storm water system. Using water from a rain barrel during drought periods helps to conserve tap water and reduces the need for the chemicals and electricity used for water treatment.

The Water Wise Landscape Recognition Program is all about celebrating the work being done by residents to conserve water in their front yards. This year, GreenUP staff were thrilled to add 19 new yards, cultivated by local water champions, to the long list of Water Wise yards.

Water Wise landscapes not only conserve water, but host a biodiversity of life that contribute to the health of our community. As flowers bloom and pollinators visit, Water Wise gardens are likely to delight passersby with shapes, colours, scents and sounds that can contribute to a sense of wellbeing.

A Water Wise lawn sign is displayed in the front lawn of a Peterborough resident, which boasts colourful flowers alongside drought-tolerant shrubs. (Photo: Laura Keresztesi / GreenUP)

A Water Wise lawn sign is displayed in the front lawn of a Peterborough resident, which boasts colourful flowers alongside drought-tolerant shrubs. (Photo: Laura Keresztesi / GreenUP)

These gardens also contribute to water conservation through slowing and soaking up rain water. In the summer time, this is especially important as it reduces the demand on our potable water.

Part of the Water Wise program is to encourage neighbours to nominate each other for recognition. This year, Melynda Dustler, a Peterborough resident, nominated her mother Ellie’s yard for recognition.

“When you pass Ellie’s front yard in the warmer months, instead of a sparse rectangular lawn, you’ll see a multi-layered garden, with bright pinks, purple and orange bursting forth from deep green foliage, shaded by a healthy tree. This garden does all it does, with very little water input,” says Program Coordinator Laura Keresztesi.

For nominating her mother through the nomination contest, Melynda won a rain barrel. Since Melynda already had one, she gave the prize to her mother who proudly installed it below a downspout and will use it to water her backyard.

In the spring, the Peterborough Children’s Water Festival invited 1,300 more water champions to learn about water conservation. Supported by the Peterborough Utilities Group, this annual event holds more than 25 engaging and hands-on topics to students in the form of educational stations, from the importance of Indigenous Knowledge for protecting the health of waterways to how the City’s stormwater system functions.

Keresztesi says, “We want to thank all our water conservation champions this year, for choosing to support local waterways all year-round. With support, and inspiration, there are many ways to reduce our demand on our municipal water, and protect the health of the environment.”

During the winter, salt accumulates on roads and in snow banks and is then washed into storm drains during thaws. The results can be damaging to our watershed. Responsible spreading of salt or salt alternatives by homeowners can reduce the amount of contaminants washed into storm drains and into our waterways. (Photo: Leif Einarson)

During the winter, salt accumulates on roads and in snow banks and is then washed into storm drains during thaws. The results can be damaging to our watershed. Responsible spreading of salt or salt alternatives by homeowners can reduce the amount of contaminants washed into storm drains and into our waterways. (Photo: Leif Einarson)

To take on the role of water champion, you can begin this winter and work to help keep our water clean. Remember, only 25% of Peterborough’s stormwater is filtered for pollutants before entering natural waterways such as the Otonabee River and Jackson Creek.

Peterborough Utilities Group recommends that homeowners keep storm drains outside of the home clear of snow, ice and debris. This will prevent pollutants from entering the storm sewers during quick-thaw weather.

While salt is a popular choice for clearing ice in the winter months, we encourage you to keep salt use to a low. Too much salt can have a negative impact on buildings, wildlife, vehicles, clothing, vegetation, and pets and it is not easily removed from water.

Treat only the icy patches or better yet, forget the salt altogether to use an environmentally friendly alternative like sand and non-clumping cat litter. Salt-substitutes like Swish Clean and Green Ice Melter contain Magnesium Chloride, which is gentle on gardens, concrete walkways, carpeting, and your pet’s paws.

While the beginning of winter is not a good time to be planting anything, it is a good time to be planning your spring garden. Choose to plan a garden using a variety of native plants that are drought resistant, biodiversity-friendly and locally-purchased.

Perhaps you are ready to try your hand at designing your own rain garden with the City of Peterborough Rain Garden Subsidy Program? Installing a raingarden is a great way to act as a water champion and eligible homeowners can receive up to $1,000 in subsidies for building a rain garden.

https://www.peterborough.ca/en/city-services/rain-garden-subsidy.aspx