Rapid urban expansion, increased traffic, ageing infrastructure, greater climatic variability, and the need for enhanced sustainability of urban water resources pose significant challenges to conventional stormwater management. Innovative approaches are needed in order to mitigate the risk of flooding, pollution, and aquatic ecosystem degradation, and enhance beneficial uses of urban waters. To examine such approaches, a series of three regional conferences on innovative stormwater management were held in Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto during 2007 to 2008 under the sponsorship of the Canadian Water Network (CWN) and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). Authors of selected conference papers providing information on innovative approaches to mitigating the risk of flooding and reducing pollution impacts at the property, neighbourhood, and watershed scales were then invited to submit journal papers, and those accepted in the review process were included in this Special Issue of the Water Quality Research Journal of Canada.
An overview of the selected papers indicates that no single innovative measure is adequate under all circumstances,and a multibarrier approach is deemed to be most effective. Examples of innovations at the property level include harvesting roof runoff and reusing water, managing rainwater by infiltration in swales and into soils in bioretention areas, minimizing impervious surfaces, and using pervious pavement. At the neighbourhood level, runoff impacts are mitigated by designing roads without curbs, gutters, and drain pipes, and diverting runoff into infiltration channels, swales, and wetlands. Creating roads and parking lots with pervious pavement and draining runoff from such surfaces into infiltration basins is also discussed. Among stormwater quality source controls, potential effects of street sweeping on runoff quality enhancement were assessed. New innovations at the watershed scale include: (a) the creation of wide riparian buffer zones that can detain water, remove sediments, and mitigate nutrient export and other pollutant effects, (b) the minimization of channelization of streams and rivers, and (c) the designation of floodwater storage areas. A new water balance model that is linked to a global information system (GIS) and works at all the three scales offers the best option to conceptualize stormwater problems, and their mitigation, in urban watersheds. Finally, the aim of this Special Issue is to promote examples of successful innovative approaches to improving stormwater management in Canadian cities, hoping that other practitioners will build on this experience and bring stormwater management practice to the next higher level.