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Partnership co-founder opening the lid on sustainable development

Green approach to stormwater management finds footing in Alberta

“This is the future,” Liliana Bozic says about low impact development (LID) and its role in land development.

LID is a greener approach to managing stormwater run-off that’s gaining ground, as emphasis shifts to protecting vital water resources. Liliana is contributing to LID’s advancement in Alberta, where it is relatively new. As a senior water resources engineer with Urban Systems Calgary branch, she facilitates the approach in collaboration with clients and discusses LID at various professional and public events. She also co-founded the Alberta Low Impact Development Partnership (ALIDP) — a knowledge-sharing network formed to develop and implement LID initiatives suitable for the province’s conditions.

“We realized there’s very little experience in Alberta with LID and people didn’t understand what it does, its benefits and how to do it,” Liliana says. “So the partnership was formed primarily to work with municipalities and various other interest groups like developers, their consultants and nonprofit watershed partnerships to try to promote LID. It’s providing a one-stop place where you can get information and help, ask questions, and get involved in the whole process of promoting and implementing LID in the province.”

Through regular events and information sharing, Liliana says ALIDP is bridging the gap between the need for LID’s implementation and tooling the community that will facilitate it. “From that perspective, (the partnership) has been quite successful.”

LID, also known as green infrastructure, works with nature to manage stormwater run-off at the source through such sustainable practices as rain gardens and porous pavement, so it is recycled or reused naturally. It contrasts the conventional system of catch basins and pipes that capture and channel high volumes of fast-moving run-off, and any pollutants it in, into water courses, which can impact water quality and the ecosystem’s overall health.

“LID is really good for watershed health,” Liliana says. “With LID, we’re trying as much as possible to mimic natural drainage patterns while at the same time allowing for land development.”

One advantage of LID is that it can contribute to the vibrancy, liveability and safety of communities. “Once you really understand what it does, you realize it can work,” Liliana says. “It can be a true win-win because we get nicer-looking communities, we get more green space, and we manage to protect our watersheds.”

Liliana has long championed LID and incorporated it into Calgary’s stormwater management strategy while employed with the city several years ago. She notes Calgary, as well as the City of Edmonton, are at the stage of adopting technical design guidelines for LID.

“Things are definitely happening and it is becoming recognized,” she says.

One of the challenges associated with LID’s implementation is the cost to developers, but they are looking at it to align with policies geared to watershed protection and health.

Targets for run-off volumes and rates are being drafted through the management plans of Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs), Liliana says. WPACs have been established under the auspices of the province’s Alberta Water for Life strategy, which Liliana says has “very specific goals for watershed sustainability for the future and ensuring Alberta has a plentiful and healthy water supply.”

The targets trickling down are becoming a municipal policy tool driving LID’s adoption because, Liliana says, LID is the only way to meet them. “Because of watershed management planning and the changing focus to watershed protection, it becomes important to implement LID,” she says.

Enhancing LID is an exciting prospect to Liliana as a professional and someone who is passionate about the environment, so a balance can be found between environmental protection and the affordability of land development. “The reality is that a lot more has to be done now than even 10 years ago,” she says. “So things are definitely changing. LID is very much an evolving field and especially in Alberta, we are still gaining experience.”

“Right now there aren’t many examples of large-scale developments that have incorporated LID but that will happen with these new targets,” Liliana says.

“It’s not that if we develop, then we destroy the environment and nothing can be done. There’s lots of things that we can do. It’s true we’re working through various issues — design specifics, costs, who’s going to pay for it as developers need to meet their bottom line — so it’s all about finding a balance.”

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