Stormwater

Stormwater is the water from rainstorms and snowmelt that goes into the storm drains in the road. These storm drains are connected to an underground pipe system that discharges to our creeks, ponds, and lakes.

These pipes start out small and get larger the closer you are to the discharge point and use gravity to direct the stormwater.

Our stormwater drainage system

Within our City, much of the landscape consists of impervious surfaces such as roads, parking lots and buildings. When rainfall and snowmelt runs off these hard surfaces, stormwater reaches waterways faster, in greater volumes, and with more pollution.

Our stormwater drainage system discharges into nearby creeks, wetlands, or directly to the Okanagan Lake without going through a treatment plant; we need to ensure the water draining into it is clean. We are also working to reduce pollution entering our waterways from stormwater, as well as manage the amount of water which can result from storms and runoff.

Learn more

Our drainage system reduces the impact of flooding, pollution, and stream erosion.  The City's Utilities Department operates and maintains current infrastructure to ensure required service levels are provided. The Utility Planning Department oversees the planning, design and construction of the citywide drainage system.

The drainage system includes: 

  • Storm Service Connections- There are approximately 5000 storm service connections in the City.  Storm service connections are downspouts on a home that are piped directly to the stormwater drainage system. This usually occurs in newer developments where there is not enough yard space for the downspout to drain to the yard.  To reduce the amount of rainwater going to the drainage system, you can install a rain barrel at the end of a downspout.  Rain barrels are easy to install and helps with water conservation.
  • Catch Basins (Storm Drains)- Catch basins (storm drains) are the primary way stormwater gets into the underground pipe system. There are over 11,000 catch basins in Kelowna which drain water off sidewalks, streets and roads.
  • Detention and Retention Ponds- A detention pond is dry over 95 per cent of the time and are sometimes located in parks and playing fields.  Dry ponds fill with water very quickly during a heavy rain event and can take as long as 24 hours to drain once the rain stops. Dry ponds are connected to stormwater infrastructure.  A retention pond (which includes storm ponds and constructed wetlands) captures and contains stormwater – for a while. Storm ponds slow down water long enough to settle out some of the sediments and pollutants, helping return cleaner water to our creeks and lakes through the drainage system. They are a critical piece of infrastructure that also help protect downstream communities from flooding.  There are over 80 detention/retention ponds within the City.
  • Outfalls- Outfalls are the discharge points by which storm water leaves the pipe system and enters a waterway. There are more than 60 outfalls located within the City.

Extensive planning and design for Kelowna’s stormwater drainage has been occurring since 1989.

The Master Drainage Plan, nine basins and six sub-basins Management Plans, the Environmental Review for Drainage and the Urban Watershed Inventory Project have all contributed toward this framework.

Protect our waterways

Every time it rains or snow melts, our streets, driveways, parking lots and lawns get a bath. Dirt, oil, gasoline, garbage, animal droppings and chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides are washed into storm drains.

Stormwater and the pollutants in it flow into our creeks, ponds, and lakes through outfalls which are pipes that discharge to a waterway. This can affect the health of our waterways, the surrounding area, as well as the health of the wildlife and fish that rely on them.

How you can help protect our rivers
  • Point downspouts toward lawns and gardens
  • Use a rain barrel with your downspouts
  • Limit the use of fertilizers and pesticides
  • Sweep up debris from your garage and driveway instead of washing it away
  • Wash your vehicle at a car wash
  • Clean up vehicle spills or leaks to prevent toxins from entering the sewer
  • Pick up after your pet at home and elsewhere
  • Never pour anything down the storm drain
  • Properly dispose of water from pools, hot tubs and spas
Substances that can't enter a storm drain

Only rain and snowmelt can drain or be poured into storm drains.  The Sanitary Sewer Storm Drain Regulation Bylaw prohibits substances to enter a storm drain including:

  • Oil and Grease
  • Soap and Cleaning Products
  • Liquid Leaking from a Waste/Oil Bin
  • Mop/Cleaning Water
  • Solid Materials (cigarette butts, grass clippings, garbage)
Tips when washing your car

Dirt on cars can contain toxic chemicals, heavy metals, oil and grease. To keep dirty water out of the storm system, consider these options for washing your car:

Use a commercial car wash facility (automatic or manual). These facilities are required to follow a set of practices determined by the City, including treating wastewater and discharging it into the sanitary sewer system where it will receive further treatment.

Find a location where the wastewater won’t flow into the storm sewer. For example, washing cars on a gravel surface or grass allows the wastewater to be absorbed before it reaches the storm sewer.

Dispose of the wastewater into the sanitary sewer. By using a pail, washcloth and only a small amount of water, and then wiping the car dry, the wastewater can be contained in the bucket and disposed of into the sanitary sewer through a laundry sink or toilet. From there it will go to a City Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Tips for businesses

Outdoor wastewater disposal

  • Wastewater from outdoor washing must not reach any catch basins as soaps, cleaning products and contaminants dislodged or dissolved from the surface being washed will violate storm sewer Bylaw limits
  • This includes water used for graffiti removal, building restoration, as well as vehicle, sidewalk, alley or other outdoor washing
  • Power washing with water alone will still dislodge or dissolve contaminants from the surface being cleaned

Instead:

  • Let the water evaporate
  • Re-route water away from a catch basin and/or contain it
  • Dispose of it in an indoor drain or haul it off-site

Washing outdoor garbage areas

  • Outside garbage areas should not be cleaned using running water

Instead:

  • Keep the outside area clean by disposing of garbage in a way that does not require washing and by continually sweeping the area
  • Use containment berms around the perimeter of outdoor waste bins and garbage compactors to capture any leaks
  • If washing is necessary, use the disposal method listed above to evaporate, re-route away from catch basins and/or contain the water
Residential pool and hot tub drainage

Through the Sanitary Sewer Storm Drain Regulation Bylaw, the City restricts the discharge of residential swimming pool and hot tub water containing disinfectants - such as chlorine, salt water or bromine - as the storm system connects directly into either Okanagan Lake or local streams untreated. The sanitary sewer system is directed to the City's Wastewater Treatment Facility and treated before being released into the lake.

Learn more

Residents are encouraged to drain their pools and hot tubs to a dry area on their property over a long period of time, making sure the water stays on the property. Water must not be drained onto public parkland, natural areas or adjacent properties - residents may be liable for any damages caused by the water. 

If water must be drained into the storm sewer system, the water must be dechlorinated. This includes saltwater pools as they contain chlorine; residents with saltwater pools should drain the water into the sanitary sewer system.

Residents should contact the City's Water Quality department before draining their pool or hot tub to make sure they’re draining into the correct system. Staff may come to check the level of chlorine in the water being discharged into the storm drain or sewer. Residents must discharge at a low flow rate and cease if it starts raining.

Please note that ponds, fountains and other water features should be drained according to the same procedure as a pool or hot tub, as sediment and wastes can be found in the water that may be hazardous to our lake and streams. 

Improper discharge of water can result in a fine of up to $2,000.

For general information please call 250-469-8887.