Concordia University tries eco-friendly approach to watering gardens

After getting rid of a messy tangle of hoses and sprinklers, the Loyola campus maintenance crew hit on the idea of collecting rainwater in barrels hooked up to gutters on the roof of the Physical Services building.

Large barrels hooked up to gutters of PS building collect rainwater used to water plants, clean roads

Maintenance workers on Concordia's Loyola campus set up this system for collecting rainwater from the gutters of the PS building. The water's then used to care for gardens and clean roadways on campus.

Concordia University has found a more environmentally friendly way to water gardens and care for the Loyola campus grounds.

Instead of using city water, Concordia has started collecting and reusing rainwater from the gutters on the Physical Services (PS) building.

The idea came after the university's maintenance crew decided to remove the garden hoses and sprinkler systems from the Loyola campus grounds.

"They were all scattered over the campus, and it was somewhat of a safety hazard for people walking by and tripping over them," said Loyola campus property manager Gerry Barrette on CBC Montreal's show Daybreak. 

"We said, 'You know, there's got to be a better way.'" 

How does the system work?

Barrette said when they first got rid of the sprinklers, they put two barrels on the back of a truck to water the gardens, but they were still using tap water to fill up the tanks.
Gerry Barrette, the property manager on Concordia's Loyola campus, says the new watering system is more convenient, more efficient and more environmentally friendly than the old hose-and-sprinkler system. (CBC News)

One day Barrette noticed how much rainwater was pouring off the roof of the PS building.

That's when the maintenance crew decided to set up a system to collect the rainwater from the roof gutters and funnel it into six large barrels all linked together.

The water is filtered through a screen to remove any debris before it's transferred into the two barrels on the back of a truck.

Barrette said those barrels are hooked up to a pressurized hose on the truck. Under low pressure, the water is used for the flowers and gardens, and under high pressure, it's used to clean the roads.

Barrette said during a heavy rainfall, it takes about two hours to fill the six barrels, each of which holds 250 gallons of water.

It's more effective

Barrette said he and his crews tried out the system for collecting rainwater last year and adopted it permanently this year. 

The switch to rainwater has not only decreased the consumption of treated water, but the new system also saves time and is more convenient, said Barrette.

"It permits us, now with our vehicle and the container, to go places where there wasn't even access to tap water," Barrette said.

He said people on campus will stop him and ask about how the system works. The response has been positive, Barrette said — especially from students concerned about the environment. 

The university is now planning on setting up a rain barrels at the Grey Nuns building on the downtown campus next spring.