ECCC Approves Expansion and Permanence of Rain Ready Ottawa

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* Update: City Council approved staff's recommendation to expand and make permanent the City's Rain Ready program! We're looking forward to seeing the new version of the program roll out. *

Rain, rain, go away. Come again some other day. And when it does, Ecology Ottawa hopes the runoff is properly managed for the sake of Ottawans and the environment.

On April 16th, City Council’s Environment and Climate Change Committee (ECCC) met (see minutes here) to discuss the findings and expansion of the City's three-year pilot program, Rain Ready Ottawa.

The Commitee approved the recommendations highlighted in the report, which included making the program permanent and expanding the priority areas for rebates to include land in the western and southern suburbs inside the greenbelt that drain into local open watercourses before reaching the Rideau or Ottawa rivers. Smaller watersheds are being prioritized over larger ones as they are more likely to be affected by polluted rainwater. (Image: Rain spout redirection in front of a home [City of Ottawa].)

It was determined that the home assessments deployed during the pilot period were not meeting the demand of non-single family home property types. 85% of participants were happy with home assessments, but the action was less successful in leading to more complex projects like rain gardens. There were only 14 rebates for rain gardens. Home assessments will now target low-rise condominiums and cooperative housing during the next phase of the program to fill this gap. According to City Council, the new targeted areas will increase the program’s impact.

Rain Ready Ottawa encourages and supports residents to reduce the harmful impacts of rainwater runoff, which include increased flooding and erosion, habitat degradation, beach closures and the contamination of watersheds. Uncontrolled rainwater runoff can contain pollutants, animal waste and garden fertilizers, contaminating the water. 

The program was established to meet retrofitting targets in deemed priority areas, by offering rebates for retrofits that redirect rain and make properties more absorbent. 

It continues to focus on older urban areas, as newer infrastructure is better able to manage stormwater.

Throughout the pilot program’s three years, 416 homes were assessed, 57 industry professionals were trained, 700 people registered for eLearning courses, 1000 residents attended over 40 events, 157 projects were completed or are underway, and three rain gardens were installed.

Over $340,000 in rebates have been allocated and leveraged a total private investment of $1.45 million. Properties are allowed a maximum of $5000 in payments.

According to the report, most rebates have funded redirected downspouts (36%) and permeable pavement (32%), though rain gardens (6.5%), fusion design rebates (19%) and soakaway pits (7%) that store rainwater have also retained funding. 

The Insurance Bureau of Canada reported that Ottawa’s flash flood on August 10th, 2023, cost $70 million in insured damages, citing that the Ottawa region was hit the hardest by severe storms last year. The $1.8 million invested into Rain Ready Ottawa is nothing compared to the $70 million in insured damages incurred by residents last year, and yet the program has proven to be a great success. With even this small investment, residents can help protect the city’s natural environment. What could be done with even more money and participants? (Image: Soakaway pit under construction [City of Ottawa].)


Ottawa is no stranger to major flooding events, and as climate change continues to worsen, these erratic weather events will become more frequent. With this daunting thought in mind, it is apparent that rainwater and flood management must expand beyond designated areas and to all areas of the city.

Ecology Ottawa’s Dan Rutabingwa Gakire addressed the City Council’s Environment and Climate Change Committee to raise concerns about the program’s accessibility.

There is a lot of support for the Rain Ready Ottawa, as evidenced by the participation rates during its pilot period. 90% of residents who participated in a public engagement survey expressed strong support for the expansion of the program.

To meet the city’s 50-year targets for stormwater retrofits on residential private properties, City Council is allocating an annual budget of $610,000 to the program. As of right now, all Ottawa residents can access online courses on stormwater management. There are currently no plans to extend the rebates and assessments to all residents or make the solutions free.

The program goes to Council on May 1 for approval.

Grace McGrenere is a freelance journalist, content writer and volunteer for Council Watch. 

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