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Nanaimo's largest mall collecting rainwater

Rod Mayo, Woodgrove Centre operations manager, shows off the mall’s new 9,000-litre rain barrel, which collects rainwater from a portion of the centre’s roof. The water collected will be used for watering shrubs and for the on-site car wash service. - Jenn McGarrigle/The News Bulletin
Rod Mayo, Woodgrove Centre operations manager, shows off the mall’s new 9,000-litre rain barrel, which collects rainwater from a portion of the centre’s roof. The water collected will be used for watering shrubs and for the on-site car wash service.
— image credit: Jenn McGarrigle/The News Bulletin

A new sustainability initiative has surfaced at Woodgrove Centre.

The mall recently installed a rainwater harvesting system that holds up to 9,000 litres of water collected from a portion of the centre's roof. The rainwater will be used for shrub irrigation and an on-site car washing service.

"Over the year, we're going to save substantial amounts of water," said Mark Fenwick, Woodgrove general manager. "We're not really doing this to save money, it's more about the environment."

Last year, the centre won an internal competition among Ivanhoe Cambridge malls and received $90,000 for sustainability initiatives.

The rainwater harvesting system, which filters the water at three different stages and includes an extensive piping system, overflow pipe, sump pump and UV system used to kill bacteria in the water, cost about $28,000, said Fenwick.

"It's more than just a bucket collecting water," he said.

Rod Mayo, the centre's operations manager, said the water comes from five three-inch drains covering about 232 square metres of the mall's flat roof.

Despite the small space covered – the centre has more than 65,000 square metres of roof – it's estimated the tank will be filled at least 25 times throughout the year.

There is no major payback on the project, as water is so inexpensive, said Mayo – the system is more to show the public what can be done.

Mayo said the tank could serve most if not all of the centre's irrigation needs as well as the car wash service because the car wash only uses about five litres of water per car and the centre has reduced its irrigation program.

"We've now learned to accept yellow grass in the summer," he said.

Mayo said other initiatives that the centre has undertaken with the $90,000 include replacing 13-litre toilets with 4.8-litre toilets, lighting control upgrades, some public awareness signage and offsetting the costs for two tenants to upgrade to LED lighting systems.

Diane Brennan, a Nanaimo city councillor and deputy chairwoman of the Regional District of Nanaimo board, said Woodgrove's water-saving initiative reminds community about the importance of capturing water – while the area does get a lot of rain, there are also periods of drought.

"It's an example of leadership on the part of a commercial member of the community," she said.

Brennan said the RDN provides rebates for eco-friendly upgrades, including a grant of up to $750 to homeowners who install rainwater collection systems.

Christina Metherall, drinking water and watershed protection coordinator for the RDN, said the systems cost on average between $1,000 and $1,400 and so far about $18,000 of the $30,000 set aside for the program, which began May 1, was already handed out.

For more information and a list of the RDN's incentive programs and rebates, please go to www.rdn.bc.ca.

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