Bringing Outdoor Learning to Life at Tourond Creek Discovery Centre November 21st, 2017

Educators across the Southeast are going outside with their students to make real world connections to classroom learning. Barret Miller, Special Programs Interpreter at Fort Whyte Alive, spends much of his time exploring the outdoors with students and educators across Manitoba. He is part of a movement of community organizations, including FortWhyte Alive, South Central Eco Institute, Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD), and Tourond Creek Discovery Centre (TCDC) that are partnering with Hanover School Division to promote opportunities for outdoor education. Teachers are keen to learn about using outdoor environments to make linkages with the school curriculum.

Barret specializes in helping educators make the most of outdoor learning opportunities. He tells a story about an experience he had while taking a group of students on a field trip to a nearby park. The group of students barely hiked 20 metres before becoming enthralled by a bluff of trees. Barret says the excited group spent over an hour exploring the bluff and discovering its wonders of life. The little bluff offered so many opportunities for teaching ecology that the group hardly had time for the rest of the hike.

Community organizations, like FortWhyte Alive, South Central Eco Institute, SRRCD, and TCDC make the most of experiential learning opportunities in the great outdoors.

Kent Lewarne runs the Riverwatch program at South Central Eco Institute. Riverwatch is a program linking the classroom study of chemistry, the nitrogen cycle, and environmental issues to real world understanding of watershed health pertaining to Lake Winnipeg. Students involved in all aspects of water quality testing help collect and analyze water samples and learn about what the results mean for our watershed.

Dorthea Grégoire at SRRCD runs the Backwater Buggin’ program. The program focuses on community ecology, biological diversity, and the importance of insect communities in monitoring ecosystem and waterway health. Students participating in Backwater Buggin’ gain hands-on experience by collecting and analyzing bug samples to learn more about the health of our rivers and streams and the different types of insect communities that live in our waterways.

The expertise of these community organizations empower educators to bring environmental education to life at places such as the Tourond Creek Discovery Centre. The TCDC is a public space and natural environment in the RM of Hanover. It is visited by families, nature-lovers, and school groups in the Southeast. Visitors come to the TCDC to discover the diversity of plant and animal life unique to the five distinct micro-ecosystems at the centre. Students and educators using the site as an outdoor classroom experience our connectedness to nature by encountering the natural systems vital to our sustainability.

Kathryn Labiuk is one of four teachers at Steinbach Regional Secondary School who took advantage of outdoor learning opportunities at TCDC during the school’s innovation week. Kathryn says, “The Tourond Creek Discovery Centre is a great local option for allowing students to encounter the outdoors with a fresh perspective. The space provides opportunities for students to engage in cross-curricular learning in an environment that encourages group interactions.”

Educators, like Kathryn, are taking the lead on outdoor education by making real world connections to the school curriculum at TCDC. The outdoor learning potential at TCDC provides endless possibilities for experiential learning.

You can call or email the SRRCD for more information about the programs we offer or to book your TCDC visit. Visit us online at www.srrcd.ca, or at www.tourondcreekdiscovery.ca.

 

 

Celebrating 12 Years: The SRRCD is here to Stay August 17th, 2017

The Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) is celebrating an important watershed moment on August 24, 2017.

The SRRCD was officially awarded the Order in Council from the Province on Manitoba on August 24, 2005. Today, the SRRCD is comprised of 16 municipalities, over 7,000 square kilometers in southeast Manitoba, and a population of approximately 70,000 people. The people we work with are passionate about making a difference. They are farmers, local experts, innovators, and community leaders collaborating on watershed initiatives throughout our district.

The programs we deliver are built from the ground-up at the local level. An Integrated Watershed Management Plan is a cooperative community-driven planning document used to identify land and water-related issues and actions to achieve goals for key priority areas, including source water protection, surface water management, water quality protection, and riparian and aquatic ecosystem management. The SRRCD has developed IWMPs for the Seine River and Rat River watersheds, and a third plan is underway for the Roseau River watershed. We work closely with our partners and local communities to meet the goals identified in our plans.

The SRRCD works diligently to protect and conserve the quality and quantity of groundwater in our watershed. We have sealed 269 abandoned wells in our district and tested 4,515 private wells for the presence of coliform and E. coli bacteria. We have also transported over 1,000 private well water samples to the lab in Winnipeg on behalf of local residents on our RM Private Well Water Testing Days. Groundwater is the primary water supply for domestic, municipal, commercial, and agricultural purposes in our area. Protecting and conserving water quality is vitally important for watershed residents and the ecological health of our watershed.

The SRRCD has also completed 19 water retention structures and over 25 water retention studies and surveys throughout our district. Naturalized water retentions utilize the ecological functions of wetlands to slow high water flows, reduce surface water runoff from urban and semi-urban areas, and mitigate the effects of downstream flooding. The De Salaberry Crown Lands & Skyline Dairy Water Retention project is the largest water retention project implemented by the SRRCD and holds 376 acre feet of water. It is also among the first retention projects in Manitoba constructed on agriculturally leased Crown Land. We are always looking for opportunities to implement innovative sustainable surface water management solutions in the Southeast.

Our rain garden program is also a unique surface water management strategy for urban areas. We have implemented six (6) rain gardens in our watershed with plans for two (2) more as this program is quickly gaining momentum in urban areas. A rain garden is a bowl-shaped perennial garden that captures surface water runoff. They are typically planted in residential areas where water flows off roofs, streets, sidewalks, driveways, sump pump discharge areas, and parking lots. Surface water runoff that is unable to infiltrate into the soil may be directed into the street and can subsequently overwhelm drainage infrastructure. The perennial plants in the rain garden take up nutrients and clean the water as it absorbs into the soil. Rain gardens also create habitat for birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife. They are also an innovative sustainable surface water management strategy for reducing water runoff at the property and neighbourhood scale.

The SRRCD was awarded Lake Winnipeg Foundation’s 2016 Alexander Bajkov Award for supporting best management practices in rural Manitoba, and as an active participant in LWF’s community-based monitoring program. We operate 20 surface water quality monitoring sites in partnership with the Lake Winnipeg Foundation (LWF) Community-Based Monitoring Network. Regular water quality testing in our waterways gives us a better understanding of where nutrients are coming from and how much phosphorus is leaving our watershed for Lake Winnipeg. We use our water quality data to help us identify what we can do to target our programs at the watershed scale for the benefit of our local environment, including riparian areas along our waterways.

The SRRCD has implemented 26 riparian livestock management projects in our district. Each project we implement on the ground at the grassroots level are custom designed in partnership with local watershed residents. Our riparian livestock management programs benefit farming operations and the local area. Riparian areas refer to vegetated areas along streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands. The Mateychuk Winter Watering System is designed to provide a safe and reliable water source to livestock. It uses a solar powered pump to draw water from a nearby dugout. The system has already weathered several winters of use and numerous extreme cold weather events. It is a great way to limit livestock access to surface water, like rivers, streams, and dugouts. Limiting livestock access to waterways also reduces the high cost and risk of exposing livestock to herd health problems, such as water-transmitted diseases, foot rot, leg injuries, and death from cattle falling through the dugout ice while trying to access the water.

We have also planted over 8,000 trees to date, including willows, oak, maple, poplar, aspen, and dogwood. Our riparian tree planting programs are geared towards reducing stream bank erosion and establishing tree buffers. The SRRCD is committed to programs that enhance the ecological health of our riparian areas and we look forward to planting many more trees in the years to come.

Our story began with a bold vision for sustainable integrated watershed management. The SRRCD is here to stay as we continue to seek innovative new ways of engaging our watershed residents and utilizing expert local knowledge to meet the unique needs of our landscape. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Province of Manitoba and our municipal partners as we celebrate 12 years together in the Southeast.

You can visit our website at srrcd.ca for more information about what we do and to see an inventory of what we’ve accomplished. We can be reached in Steinbach at (204) 326-1030 or in Vita at (204) 425-7877.

 

SRRCD La Broquerie Office has Moved to 154 Friesen Avenue in Steinbach July 11th, 2017

The Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) is now open for business – in Steinbach! Our new head office location in Steinbach features plenty of homey space. That’s because we’ve converted a house into a fully functional modern office.

We are now located at the corner of Friesen Avenue and Brandt Street in the heart of Steinbach’s downtown central business district. This 1,328 square foot house with four offices, two bathrooms, multi-purpose meeting space, and a double car garage is an ideal fit for the needs of our growing district. Our main floor was redesigned to host our regular Board and Sub-Watershed District Committee meetings. The remodeled entrance features a warm welcome area with informational resources for visitors. There is also plenty of room in the finished basement to set up additional workstations, as well as to host district-related training seminars and events. Our two car garage doubles as a workshop for building and maintaining district projects on-site.

The SRRCD is excited to establish an urban presence in a convenient new location central to our district. We look forward to demonstrating the effectiveness of urban storm water management with future plans for developing a rain garden right here in our own backyard. Our exciting move enables opportunities for our district to establish new networks and connections as we collaborate on watershed initiatives among friends and partners around our homestyle “kitchen” table.

The SRRCD was pleased and proud to receive approval in April from the Province and all our 16 municipal partners to proceed with the purchase of 154 Friesen Avenue. Thank you for all your support in making this move possible.

Come on by to take a tour, pick up a program application, or to find out more about your watershed. We’ll put the coffee on!

 

Seine-Rat River Conservation District

154 Friesen Avenue

Steinbach, MB, R5G 0T5

(204) 326-1030

info@srrcd.ca

www.srrcd.ca

 

Our Vita field office is open for business as always. You can visit our field office in Vita at 108 Main Street North. We can also be reached in Vita by telephone at (204) 425-7877.

 

Municipal Partners of the SRRCD:

RM of La Broquerie

RM of Ste. Anne

Town of Ste. Anne

RM of Reynolds

RM of Stuartburn

RM of Hanover

City of Steinbach

RM of Taché

RM of Springfield

RM of Ritchot

RM of De Salaberry

Village of St-Pierre-Jolys

RM of Montcalm

RM of Emerson-Franklin

Town of Niverville

RM of Piney

Community-Based Monitoring Results Give Meaning to Our Story: Water Monitoring Results Story Map June 2nd, 2017

Click here to view our story map.

Citizen scientists around Manitoba are working together with Lake Winnipeg Foundation (LWF) to tell an important story about the health of our watershed. Manitoba’s community-based monitoring network is made up of volunteers collaborating on a grassroots initiative to better understand phosphorus loading in Lake Winnipeg. Local volunteers, school groups, and conservation districts are using their citizen scientist training to collect water quality data at sample sites throughout the Red River watershed. The goal of this project is to measure phosphorus concentrations and water flow data to identify where nutrients are coming from and how much phosphorus is leaving our watershed for Lake Winnipeg.

The Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) partnered with LWF in 2016 to conduct regular water quality monitoring at six sample sites in the Seine River watershed. The results of this pilot-study inform how human activity affects our watershed and what we can do to better improve our programs for the benefit of our local environment. An interactive story map produced by the SRRCD and LWF gives meaning to the water quality data collected by volunteer citizen scientists in Manitoba.

A story map is a unique tool for viewing spatial areas using text, photos, and engaging graphics. Story maps are ideal for presenting spatial data in a non-technical way. The results of the 2016 LWF community-based water quality monitoring in the Seine River watershed show that a wide range of phosphorus concentrations vary between sub-watersheds. The story map shows that the amount of phosphorus leaving our watershed for Lake Winnipeg, called the export coefficient, is higher in areas with greater human activity. This narrative, however, is one part of a much bigger story. Phosphorus movement is also affected by natural functions, such as vegetation and soil type. That’s because different plant species and soil types store and release phosphorus in different ways. This means that the export coefficient varies from year to year in response to local environmental conditions, such as overland flooding, soil type, vegetation, and human activity. The story map produced by SRRCD and LWF tells the story of how human and natural interactions function within our watershed and where our phosphorus hotspots are located. We look forward to providing you with more detailed information about water results from each of our watersheds. Stayed tuned in the coming months for water quality testing results conducted in-house by the SRRCD.

You can engage with this narrative by interacting with our story map by clicking here, or by visiting our website at www.srrcd.ca. This story map can be viewed by scrolling through the text; zooming in and out of the maps; and by clicking on map features for more information about sample sites and water quality results.

Our head office and phone number has changed. We can be reached at:

We are always looking for volunteer citizen scientists to participate in community-based monitoring as we expand this program throughout our whole district. Contact the SRRCD at info@srrcd.ca for more information about becoming a part of our story!

Seine-Rat River Conservation District

Head Office

154 Friesen Avenue, Steinbach, MB, R5G 0T5

(204) 326-1030

Urban Surface Water Management Solutions April 28th, 2017

Surging surface water runoff and ice-plugged culverts resulting in localized urban flooding frustrated local governments and residents over this year’s spring melt. Water flowing over the concrete landscape of the urban environment also inundated local drainage networks and contributed to rising water levels in response to this year’s unusual rapid melting and freezing temperatures. Heavy equipment urgently worked to clear ice from culverts and ditches as water back flooded over roads and streets of the impervious urban landscape.

The concrete sea of the urban landscape is a vast impermeable surface contributing to massive flows of water runoff. Water that is unable to soak into the ground will quickly flow over asphalt parking lots, roads, rooftops, driveways, sidewalks, and residential streets into the local drainage network and low-lying areas. The amount of impervious surface within a watershed determines how great the change in runoff will be. Surface water runoff will double in areas with 10-20% impervious surface cover and triple in areas with 30-50% impervious surface cover. The majority of all surface water will result in runoff in urban areas with 75-100% impervious surface cover. This means that the process of urbanization dramatically increases surface water runoff because water is prevented from soaking into the soil.

The increasing frequency and severity of short-duration, high precipitation events are also challenging the way we think about sustainable urban surface water management strategies. Today, we are seeing more severe precipitation events in the amount of rain that falls in a storm – even though annual precipitation events are staying the same. This means that multi-day storms are increasing in frequency and extreme precipitation events are becoming more severe and damaging.

The conventional approach to urban surface water management has been to direct runoff into the urban drainage network. While this approach has been successful at removing water from roads and streams, it has contributed to greater stream bank erosion and sediment transport. Urban streams have subsequently been channelized with concrete to push water through the system more efficiently, resulting in increased downstream flooding in the lowland portions of the watershed. The shift away from conventional urban surface water management practices to more innovative and sustainable approaches are essential for mitigating flood risk and building more resilient communities.

Permeable Paving

Permeable paving is a broad term used to describe a diverse range of pavement technologies that allow water to seep through the surface material into a base layer for on-site water infiltration and filtration. Porous paving allows water to move through the surface material while permeable paving directs water around impervious brick pavers and into aggregate material in the joints between pavers.

These innovative paving methods can be utilized for roads, paths, driveways, parking lots, sidewalks, and other surfaces that are subject to light vehicular traffic. They are becoming increasingly popular for reducing runoff in urban centres because they maintain the functionality of a stable, load-bearing surface. Permeable paving systems utilize a wide variety of technologies for increasing soil infiltration capacity, including pervious concrete; porous asphalt; plastic grids; permeable interlocking concrete pavers; and resin bound paving made of recycled materials, such as glass, plastic, and rubber. Permeable paving is an effective strategy for low impact development at the neighbourhood scale. This strategy may be incorporated with innovations at the property scale to further enhance the utility of sustainable surface water management initiatives in urban areas.

Rain Gardens and Bioswales

Rain gardens and bioswales are vegetated with native plant species and are designed to capture and store surface water runoff from impervious surfaces. A rain garden is a bowl-shaped perennial garden planted near drain spouts and sump pump outlets to capture runoff from roofs and low-lying areas. Bioswales are linear systems designed to manage greater volumes of runoff from parking lots or roadways. The size of a rain garden or bioswale is designed according to the impervious surface area where water will be directed into the system. The larger the impervious surface area – the bigger the size of rain garden or bioswale.

Rain garden and bioswale systems provide important environmental benefits at the property scale. They improve water quality as surface water filters into the ground. Nutrients in the water are then taken up by native plant species vegetated in the system. These naturalized surface water management systems also create habitat for birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife; they reduce downstream flooding; and beautify residential neighbourhoods.

The Seine-Rat River Conservation District can help you design and create your own rain garden project. We provide funding up to $500 for individual projects, or 50% up to $5,000 for projects located in public spaces. We would be pleased to present on our expanded urban rain garden program at your next community organization meeting.

Naturalized Storm Water Retentions

Naturalized urban storm water retentions are aesthetically pleasing urban design features, which utilize the ecological functions of wetlands to slow high water flows; reduce surface water runoff from urban and semi-urban areas; and mitigate the effects of downstream flooding. Naturalized wetlands improve water quality as they are vegetated with water loving native plant species. Native plant species contribute to a greater biodiversity in the local area, as well as provide natural habitat to a variety of waterfowl and amphibian species. The native plant species of naturalized systems also provide goose deterrence and management by limiting goose access from the water to grazing areas. Native plant root systems penetrate deep into the ground and clean the water as they absorb nutrients, degrade pesticides, retain sediments, and reduce pathogens as water infiltrates back into the soil for groundwater recharge.

Naturalized urban storm water retentions are a cost-effective alternative to conventional retentions because less soil is removed from a site; rock or soil does not need to be imported to a site; construction time is reduced; basin construction can occur during slower times of the year; maintenance of surrounding native grass uplands is a fraction of the cost of maintaining sod; and there is no maintenance required to remove or manage unwanted algal blooms or submersed vegetation. Conventional ponds require long-term algae management because they are susceptible to algal blooms as nutrients slowly build up in the system. Naturalized storm water retentions mitigate flooding risk in urban areas by utilizing the natural ecological functions of wetlands to reduce peak waters flows for sustainable surface water management in urban areas.

Changes in land use and climate show that conventional urban surface water management strategies must be adapted at the property, neighbourhood, and watershed scale in order to mitigate flooding risk resulting from population growth and development. Innovative next-generation technologies and methods, like permeable surfaces, rain gardens, and naturalized storm water retentions are intrinsic to the sustainability of urban surface water management strategies.

Visit our website at srrcd.ca for more information about sustainable urban surface water management solutions, including permeable paving, naturalized retentions, and rain gardens.

Frog Pond a Ribbeting Success March 14th, 2017

Each year, eager frog lovers seek out the most ambitious amphibians worthy of competing at the St-Pierre Frog Follies National Frog Jumping Championship. This popular event involves safely catching and releasing frogs from the local area. Contest participants register their chosen contenders in the frog jumping tournament to champion the frog with the furthest hop!

 

The Frog Follies annual community festival in the Village of St-Pierre-Jolys has grown leaps and bounds since it was first inaugurated in 1970 by Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles. This unique festival celebrating francophone heritage inspired the development of a brand new naturalized amphibian habitat at Parc Carillon community park.

 

In 2016, the Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) entered into a cost-share partnership with the Parc Carillon Committee to transform the existing one acre pond into a natural wetland ecosystem and frog spawning habitat. Soil removed from the pond excavation was used to create landscaped mounds as observation areas. They provide suitable frog habitat for protective cover during the day, as well as hibernation habitat during cold winter months.

 

Native plant species in the wetland environment are being planted to contribute to greater biodiversity in the local environment, as well to provide natural habitat to a variety of adult frog species. Native plants are naturally adapted to our climate and environmental conditions. This means that their root systems penetrate deep into the ground to improve water infiltration. The SRRCD planted a variety of native plant species in 2016 and will complete the naturalization of the pond in 2017.

 

The Parc Carillon Frog Pond also functions as an urban storm water detention that utilizes the natural ecological functions of wetlands to retain and slow high water flows, reduce runoff in urban and semi-urban areas, and purify water quality with native plant species. Naturalized urban water detentions can be incorporated into aesthetically pleasing urban design features with naturally wild or manicured appearances for sustainable environmental development and integrated watershed planning and management.

 

“This project will be a great addition to Parc Carillon – one that will particularly interest classrooms,” said Raymond Maynard, Parc Carillon Committee President. “Interpretive signs will not only help describe the project, they will also point to the similarities between the pond and St-Pierre-Jolys’ lagoon expansion, a first of its kind using ongoing phytoremediation [plant-based remediation] as part of the treatment process.”

 

The success of the Parc Carillon Frog Pond gives meaning to the value of building strong partnerships at the local level. The SRRCD and Village of St-Pierre-Jolys cost-shared the project for $10,000 each. The SRRCD took the lead on the project with design support provided by Native Plant Solutions.

 

The Parc Carillon Frog Pond is an innovative wetland ecosystem and viable model for urban storm water management. This unique amphibian habitat is intrinsic to the community and home to the next generation of frog jumping champions.

 

 

 

 

Backwater Buggin’ for Healthy Waterways January 31st, 2017

The Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) is excited to launch Backwater Buggin’ for Healthy Waterways. Backwater Buggin’ is a unique program implemented by the SRRCD in partnership with local schools. District staff help students collect information about the health of river and streams by examining the different types of bug communities that live in our waterways.

Did you know that water bugs can tell us a lot about the health of our waterways? That’s because some kinds of bugs are sensitive to changes in their environment. Pollution in our waterways can affect the abundance and diversity of benthic macro-invertebrate communities. Benthic macro-invertebrates are bottom dwelling bugs with no backbone. They live among the stones, logs, sediments, and plants of freshwater rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands. They are large enough to see and include species, such as dragonfly and stonefly larvae, snails, worms, and beetles.

Bottom dwelling macro-invertebrates are reliable indicators of the biological health of waterways. They are ideal indicators because they spend all or most of their lives in water, are easy to collect, and differ in their tolerance to pollution. Healthy waterways can support a wide variety and high number of benthic macro-invertebrate species, including many that are less tolerant of pollution. Bug communities with only pollution-tolerant species, or very little abundance and diversity of macro-invertebrate species, may indicate a less healthy waterway.

Backwater Buggin’ is an aquatic biomonitoring program implemented by the SRRCD for collecting samples of benthic macro-invertebrate community compositions in southeast Manitoba. The bug samples we collect are used to establish a baseline for evaluating watershed health by sampling sites under the guidelines established by the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN). The CABIN program is maintained by Environment Canada and allows project partners to take their observations and make a formalized scientific assessment on watershed health using nationally comparable standards. This means that the data we collect through ongoing sampling will be shared with researchers across Canada working to support initiatives that promote healthy watersheds.

Backwater Buggin’ is a comprehensive biomonitoring program incorporating CABIN protocols to test for over a dozen parameters at each sampling site, including nitrogen, phosphorus – and bugs, of course. The high quality data collected through Backwater Buggin’ gives us a better understanding of why our waterways are in the state of health they are in. This data also increases the capacity for communities and local governments to make more informed decisions about sustainable watershed management. The SRRCD will use data collected through this program to guide the implementation of best management practices through existing Conservation District programming for reducing nutrient loading, sedimentation, and loss of functional riparian habitat.

The program also engages the community through public participation to identify and address surface water quality priorities in southeast Manitoba. The program is already generating excitement at Shevchenko School in Vita where junior and high school students are developing a bug library. This reference library of benthic macro-invertebrate specimens is being put together by the Shevchenko School Biomonitoring Group under the supervision of the SRRCD. The library will be maintained by the SRRCD and made publically available to educators and interested groups in the southeast. Students participating in Backwater Buggin’ gain hands-on experience by participating in sample collection and processing. Students also learn an appreciation for science-based water management issues in our region. The reference library also exposes students to practical applications of basic biological principals taught in school.

Backwater Buggin’ for Healthy Watersheds successfully piloted the project at 11 sample sites in the Roseau River watershed with plans to add additional sampling sites throughout the rest of the district. Contact our office in La Broquerie at (204) 424-5845, or in Vita at (204) 425-7877 to learn more about Backwater Buggin’ for Healthy Waterways. You can also visit us online at www.srrcd.ca.

 

 

Project Spotlight: Vita Community Child Care Centre Rain Garden Project December 22nd, 2016

The Vita Community Child Care Centre had a vision for developing a natural playground. They wanted to develop a space for children to connect with nature through outdoor play. Engaging with nature is one of the best ways for children to master emerging social, emotional, and physical skills, like running, jumping, inventing games, and solving problems. The Vita Community Child Care Centre found a unique way of developing a natural playground by incorporating the environmental benefits of rain gardens.

A rain garden is a bowl-shaped perennial garden that captures surface water runoff. They are typically planted in urban and residential areas where water flows off roofs, streets, sidewalks, driveways, sump pump discharge areas, and parking lots. Surface water runoff that is unable to infiltrate into the soil may be directed to the street and subsequently overwhelm local drainage infrastructure. It can even pick up harmful substances on its way to the drain, including road salt, heavy metals, oils, and other contaminants. These contaminants can harm the quality of our drinking water and put the health of our aquatic ecosystems at risk when they end up in our rivers and lakes. Rain gardens provide a simple solution for mitigating local flooding issues by infiltrating surface water through the soil. The soil in a rain garden is porous because it is amended with organic materials that help speed infiltration and filter out pollutants. The perennial plants in the garden clean surface water by taking up nutrients as water is absorbed into the soil. Rain gardens also create habitat for birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife. They also beautify the neighbourhood and mitigate local water issues.

The natural playground area of the Vita Community Child Care Centre functions as both a rain garden and as a unique natural landscape for outdoor play. The rain garden is designed to capture and store water from the roof of the building as well as from the playground area. A small hill with a slide overlooks the rain garden and features a hand pump system, which circulates water for children’s playtime. This interactive design provides stimulating physical play while teaching children about the water cycle and importance of green spaces. The water used during children’s playtime is returned back into the rain garden at the end of the day to minimize waste and the need for plant watering. This innovative multi-use space utilizes the environmental benefits of rain gardens to inspire children’s imaginations through hands-on outdoor play.

Kim Chornopyski, Director of the Vita Community Child Care Centre, said, “The children and staff are very happy with our new natural playground. The children were able to watch the work being done to keep track of the progress being made. The hill is very popular and the trail around the yard is the perfect ‘track’ for chasing games. Our natural play hut and sand box is a nice area to sit and relax. It is also a central meeting place for the children when they are playing. The rock climbing wall and timber stump steps provide the children with opportunities to exercise their muscles. We just scratched the surface when it comes to all the opportunities it offers for children’s play.”

The Vita day care approached local representatives of the Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) with the project idea in summer 2015. The SRRCD Board of Directors approved project funding for two urban rain gardens as well as project design and management support. Additional funding was secured by the Vita day care through a Province of Manitoba Community Places Program grant. The natural playground rain garden project was completed in summer 2016 with plans to complete a second rain garden for the purpose of capturing water from a secondary sump pump discharge area.  The Vita Community Child Care Centre urban rain garden project is an innovative watershed initiative implemented at the local level.

“We look forward to the upcoming spring and summer season when we will experience the environmental benefits of the rain garden first-hand with the children,” said Kim.

Heavy precipitation events and rapid snowmelt in the Southeast challenge the way we manage surface water in our area. Rain gardens are innovative design features that can improve the way we manage surface water in urban areas. The SRRCD can help you design and create your own rain garden project. We provide funding up to $500 for individual projects, or 50% up to $5,000 for projects located in public spaces. We would be pleased to present on our expanded urban rain garden program at your next community organization meeting. Give us a call in La Broquerie at (204) 424-5845, or in Vita at (204) 425-7877. You can also visit us online at www.srrcd.ca.

Roseau River Surface Water Assessment Complete November 15th, 2016

The Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) recently completed a surface water assessment in the Roseau River watershed. The purpose of this assessment is to help communities develop sustainable surface water management strategies and increase understanding of how water flows into the Roseau River by creating an inventory of culverts located throughout the watershed.

This summer, the SRRCD partnered with the RMs of Stuartburn and Piney to collect culvert flow information on municipally managed culverts. Field staff used global positioning satellite (GPS) survey equipment to identify 2,175 culvert locations in the watershed. Staff also recorded elevation at the upstream and downstream end of each culvert, as well as information about culvert type (corrugated steel, plastic); restrictions (gate, apron); and culvert condition (torn, crushed, blocked, or altered pipe) for each municipality.

The GPS data collected throughout the surface water assessment can be analyzed using computer mapping software to show culvert locations and alignments for hydro-conditioning Digital Elevation Models (DEM). Hydro-conditioning refers to the process of using computer mapping software to accurately represent the flow of water across the contours of our landscape, including hills, valleys, cliffs, depressions, and even under roads. Hydro-conditioned DEMs can now allow us to accurately calculate where water will flow after a rain event. It is also possible to calculate the effects of changes on the landscape, such as replacing a small culvert with a large culvert. This means that the capacity to model surface water flows will give decision-makers better information on implementing sustainable surface water management strategies, including water storage and drought preparedness.

Water storage is important for slowing the flow of water to mitigate the effects of flooding on homeowners and agricultural land. Hydro-conditioned DEM surface water models are used to identify water storage sites in the watershed that are most beneficial to the community. Water storage and drought preparedness modelling are both currently being prepared by the province. Everyone agrees that the only thing worse than too much water is not enough water at all.

The inventory of culverts collected through the surface water assessment provides municipalities with information about the status of each culvert under their management. Municipalities can take short-term action to replace or maintain culverts identified in the inventory as no longer functioning due to damage, alteration, or blockages. The inventory also allows municipalities to develop long-term asset management strategies to optimize water management needs throughout the area by resizing or repositioning culverts, as well as replacing culverts that may be reaching the end of their design life.

The surface water assessment conducted by the SRRCD is a successful initiative that provides benefits to local municipalities in partnership with the district. The RM of Stuartburn recognizes the importance of these benefits for planning and decision-making.

Jim Swidersky, Reeve of the RM of Stuartburn, says, “Useful information is the lead to all projects because it increases the capacity for communities and local government to make more informed decisions.”

The SRRCD is pleased to partner with municipalities in our district by developing initiatives that benefit the health of our watershed. Feel free to contact our offices in La Broquerie and Vita for more information about the Roseau River Surface Water Assessment. We can be reached in La Broquerie at (204) 424-5845 or in Vita at (204) 425-7877. You can also visit us online at www.srrcd.ca.

Volunteer Weather Observer Shocked by On-Farm Downpour October 11th, 2016

By Alan Wiebe at Seine-Rat River Conservation District

Harold and his brother were taken by storm last summer when they heard news that a deluge of rain dumped 2.81 inches of rain on their crop land near St. Elizabeth, Manitoba.

“We were in Winnipeg at the time and my brother phoned home to talk to my sister-in-law,” said Harold. “She said it was just pouring outside! We got home later and couldn’t believe what we saw. A storm cell had just formed and burst on our small area of land. You could have gone a mile in any direction from where we live and no one received any measureable amount of rain.”

The saying, “Rain doesn’t fall the same on all” certainly gives meaning to Harold, an avid CoCoRaHS volunteer weather observer. Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is a grassroots network of volunteer weather observers of all ages and backgrounds. They work together to measure and map precipitation, including rain, hail, and snow, in their local communities. The data they report is used to better understand where precipitation falls in our communities and how weather affects our lives.

Harold checks his rain gauge every day and reports weather information online using an app on his phone. The extreme nature of the isolated precipitation event he experienced on July 15, 2015 caught the attention of CoCoRaHS weather watchers, including Tiffiny Taylor, Provincial Coordinator for CoCoRaHS Manitoba.

“Tiffiny called me to find out if there was a reporting error. I laughed at the time because my brother was with me to verify the huge amount of rain we received. The bad part was that our area got another 1.88 inches of rain the next day.” said Harold.

Today, we are seeing more severe precipitation events in the amount of rain that falls in a storm – even though annual precipitation events are staying the same. This means that multi-day storms are increasing in frequency and extreme precipitation events are becoming more severe and damaging.

The health of Harold’s farm is deeply connected to the weather and the health of the Marsh River watershed. He says that the CoCoRaS website is nice for keeping track of localized precipitation in his area in the Municipality of Montcalm, just east of the Red River.

“I love the way you can go on the website and check the map to see how much precipitation the neighbours got. It’s a great way of tracking total rainfall amounts and how much precipitation you have on your farm for the season.”

CoCoRaHS is the largest provider of daily precipitation observations in the United States. This network of volunteer observers report precipitation measurements throughout Canada, the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas. The daily observations collected by volunteer observers are reported in real-time and are used to provide high quality data for natural resource, education, and research applications.

“Every drop counts for volunteer weather reporting,” said Tiffiny, “including reports of zero precipitation. That’s because organizations across North America use CoCoRaHS data every day to get the latest weather reports as they come in.”

The Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) uses CoCoRaHS data to help us model water flows in our watershed. Pete Hiebert is a SRRCD sub-watershed representative of the Manning Canal watershed. He is also a dedicated CoCoRaHS volunteer observer who is interested in checking how much moisture is in the snow. He believes that volunteer weather reporting is important because weather data is more accurate when there are more volunteer weather observers reporting.

The increasing frequency and severity of short-duration, high-intensity precipitation events means that volunteer observers play an important role in their communities. Organizations like the SRRCD benefit when there are more volunteers because they provide localized precipitation data that can be used to implement more effective surface water management strategies.

According to Tiffiny, “Managing erratic and extreme precipitation events, as well as longer, hotter, and drier growing seasons pose major adaptation challenges. That’s why precipitation data, and more of it, is really important. The data our volunteer observers provide tells us the story of our current climate conditions. More data gives us better tools to assess and address changes in our land and water systems. It also helps flood and drought forecasters, as well as decision-makers, make more informed decisions for managing risk, flood and drought mitigation, and building resilience in our communities.”

Joining the CoCoRaHS network as a volunteer weather observer is easy. Anybody with an enthusiasm for watching and reporting weather conditions can become a volunteer observer. Volunteers receive training and education on how to use low-cost measurement tools to report observations on the interactive CoCoRaHS website.

“I got involved with CoCoRaHS because I like tracking weather and precipitation. I am a farmer and it’s nice to see what my total precipitation amounts are for the year. The data we collect is also helping other organizations and this information is beneficial to everyone in the region.”

The SRRCD is pleased to partner with CoCoRaHS to measure and map precipitation data in our district. You can sign up to become a CoCoRaHS volunteer weather observer by visiting www.cocorahs.org. You can also find out more by contacting the SRRCD at one of our offices in the southeast. We can be reached in La Broquerie at (204) 424-5845, or in Vita at (204) 425-7877. You can also visit us online at www.srrcd.ca.