Rain is at the Heart of Climate Change

What’s different about water on Salt Spring? The islands in the Salish Sea are in a rain shadow, and seasonal drought is common. All water on this island comes from rain. Climate change is being realized in our region and at the heart of climate change and climate resilience is…water.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that water conservation guidance is in the top 20 needed individual climate actions. Salish sea island residents of the next ten years require a unique, suited-to-purpose, and varied approach to freshwater to ensure availability for plants and animals, as well as a thriving human population.

According to Environment Canada’s – Historical Weather and Climate Data, Salt Spring Island receives 78% of its average annual precipitation between October and March and that is prime time for collecting rainwater storage. Some rainwater users on Salt Spring manage to collect all of their needs between March – May, yet it’s important to note that with a changing climate, precipitation patterns outside of the November – March timeframe are less reliable.

This year, Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance (SSIWPA) is hosting the 6th annual Salt Spring Island Rainwater Harvesting Tour 2022. Take the tour to learn about rainwater system design for a multitude of different sites and purposes, maintenance applications, tips and tricks.

The tour features a site with 15,000 gallons of annual rain storage put to use for irrigation in a local orchard, a system demonstrating 34,000 gallons of annual storage for 2 households’ potable use as well as a quarter of the property’s irrigation needs, and many systems of varying scales and unique features.

Sharon Bywater, a self-proclaimed “water nerd” and climate activist is ready and willing on this tour (and year-round actually if you call her up) to help islanders with their questions and perceived limitations. She will change your mind about the ease of using non-potable rainwater if you had any doubts, and loves to assist others with implementing rainwater solutions and plant choices for small gardens in the Gulf Islands.

According to Bruce Eggertson who built one of many necessary and successful potable rainwater systems on Sun Eagle Drive, “Storing and treating rainwater for domestic use is reliable, straightforward and there are many ways to make rainwater work for your situation – including adding volume tank-by-tank over many years as some upfront costs are significant investments.”

“Putting Water at the Centre” means that whether you are living in a tiny home with a much reduced footprint, improving your climate-resilient water-wise gardening, addressing our housing crisis with a new suite in your accessory building, or doing a home renovation or new build – every single site can benefit from rainwater collection for offsetting the use of treated groundwater and surface water, which are both severely limited by annual late summer droughts. Did you know the region is also increasingly experiencing late winter – spring droughts? These are shifting hydrological cycles that call on us to adapt.

To top off the reasons to start (or continue) to build your rain storage and delivery systems, Transition Salt Spring Society has a Rainwater Storage Rebate program – time to get on the waitlist!

Although the needs and costs may differ, Rain Systems Tour 2022 hosts agree that all rainwater storage is a type of rural climate resiliency bank account when designed and maintained appropriately. If you create any new water storage volume between 2021 and 2026, please let the SSIWPA Coordinator know the volume added – you will be contributing to the Salt Spring Island Water Storage Challenge Goal: 3 million new gallons of storage by 2026!

On Sunday September 25th, as part of “On the Rise: An arts festival navigating climate grief and action” please join us on the SSI Rainwater Harvesting Tour 2022 and learn how you can reduce your “water footprint”. The tour is free and open to everyone. Tour hosts will begin tours at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm unless otherwise noted on the tour map.

Tour maps are available on paper from the Tourist Information Centre. Digital maps are available at here.

More information? Check out the rain resources blog, Transition Salt Spring’s Climate Action Coach Program, or, contact SSIWPA Coordinator Shannon Cowan.