Pilot project to measure how much rain barrels could help communities reduce stress on sewer infrastructure, help prevent basement flooding and conserve water

    Wingham residents part of ground-breaking study

    WINGHAM, ON, May 27 /CNW/ - Can 1,000 households make a difference?
Residents of Wingham, Ontario believe they can. The community has rallied in
support of a ground-breaking pilot project that is measuring how much the
collective use of rain barrels can reduce stress on sewer systems and help
keep basements dry during intense rain storms.
    The pilot was developed by Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) because the
industry has noticed an increase in insurance claims resulting from more
severe weather patterns. Natural disaster claims today are 20 times higher
than they were 30 years ago.
    "The pilot project uses old technology -- the rain barrel -- to deal with
a 21st century problem. By collecting rain water we can hopefully provide some
relief to our over-burdened sewer infrastructure which is dealing with
ever-increasing amounts of rain water due to changing weather patterns," said
Mary Lou O'Reilly, IBC Vice-President of Public Affairs and Marketing. "We
believe this is the first time anyone has set out to measure by how much the
use of rain barrels by an entire community can help to reduce sewer overflows
during intense rainstorms," she added.
    Wingham met all the criteria for the pilot: a residential base of around
1,000 homes, a history of sewer backup overflows during intense rain storms
and a local government committed to the project.
    "This problem is not unique to Wingham," said Ms. O'Reilly.
"Municipalities across the country are dealing with this issue. By encouraging
entire communities to collect rain water, we hope to reduce the number of
flooded basements and the demand for treated water," she added.
    One rain barrel can collect about 45 gallons of water. A city of 55,000
households could keep 2.5 million gallons of water out of the sewer system if
every home had a rain barrel. That's the equivalent of five Olympic-size
swimming pools.
    Greg McClinchey, Councillor for North Huron Township, said: "What we
learn here in Wingham could have a measurable impact on communities across the
country. This pilot is a unique partnership between the insurance industry,
the Township and the people of Wingham. It proves that good solutions can
start at the grassroots level because people want to get involved and make a
    IBC provided 1,000 free rain barrels so all Wingham homeowners could
participate. Support was generated through a public education campaign and
information sessions for community groups. The Township assisted homeowners
who needed help picking up and installing their rain barrels, and installed a
Davis Weather Station to track the intensity of rainfall around the clock.
    The weather station will allow the Township to compare the amount of
water entering the sewer system historically with the amount entering after
homeowners are using rain barrels. The Wingham Water and Waste Water Facility
and IBC worked with the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority and Environment
Canada to establish measurement criteria for the pilot.
    Don Nicholson, Chief Operator, Water and Wastewater Facilities, Township
of North Huron, said: "Years ago, sewer system design was based on weather
patterns that predicted intense storms would occur every five years. But these
intense storms are now occurring every two years. Rain barrels will capture
storm water and hold it until it can be safely processed, reducing the stress
on the sewer system.
    Nicholson added: "The rain barrel could be one of a number of innovative
solutions that allow municipalities to use their existing infrastructure more
efficiently until they can be updated."
    "We are thrilled that so many Wingham homeowners are participating in
this pilot and are already using rain water instead of tap water for their
gardens," said Ms. O'Reilly, adding that IBC will host '1000 Burgers for 1000
Barrels BBQ' on June 6 to thank the community.

    Insurance Bureau of Canada is the national industry association
representing Canada's private home, car and business insurers. Its member
companies represent nearly 95% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance
market in Canada. The P&C industry employs over 110,000 Canadians, pays more
than $6 billion in taxes to the federal and provincial governments, and has a
total premium base of $38 billion.

For further information:

For further information: Ellen Woodger: (416) 483-2358; James
Geuzebroek: (416) 362-2031, x 4364

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