Aug 18, 2021

Romance in Ecology: Stormwater Kidney Pond at Dawson's Landing

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Chestermere, AB – In Chestermere, Alberta, life is all about being one with nature. The city was built to surround Chestermere Lake, naturally developing a love for water, flora, and fauna for all the residents within. The Qualico community of Dawson’s Landing has been emerging from the landscape just minutes away from the beauty of the lake, driving new families and nature lovers to the area.

But as the development of Dawson’s Landing began turning natural land into streets and housing, the need for controlled stormwater was imminent. In Chestermere, the lake is controlled by a different entity than the city, and they have different treatment requirements to discharge to the lake, higher than those mandated by Alberta Environment for a typical storm pond.

Dawson Kidney Pond Aerial

Aerial View of Stormwater KidneyTM Pond at Dawson’s Landing

Water cannot simply be dumped into Chestermere Lake. The preservation of its ecosystem, its water clarity, and its existing health is something that is very important to the community, and restrictions are in place to protect the delicate ecology.

“We were faced with a zero-discharge requirement for Dawson’s Landing,” said Clark Piechotta, Associate Director, Development, Qualico Communities Calgary. “When we bought the land, we were made aware we would have to find a different way to get rid of the stormwater on site.”

Engineering consultants initially advised Qualico that the required level of treatment could only be met with a treatment plant, and that Qualico should be prepared to manage the water on site for 10 or more years until the regional ditch system was constructed. However, Clark was not content to sit and wait for the regional system and a wastewater treatment system was simply not an option – there had to be a better way.

In his quest for an innovative approach, Clark looked to his professional network to find a company already working on developing innovative methods of treating water, including stormwater. Clark reached out, outlining the water management problem facing Dawson’s Landing and the need to achieve area treatment targets without building a treatment facility. Interestingly this engineering firm had a brand-new solution under development, and had piloted a pre-cursor project in partnership with the City of Calgary. This new solution was what we now know as a Stormwater KidneyTM.

The Stormwater KidneyTM is a unique solution to purify, process, and move water within a contained area. Its purpose is to preserve natural wetlands and biofiltration systems in a self-sustaining environment. The system offers sediment management, purification and removal of algae-inducing nutrients from stormwater, and sustainable non-potable stormwater use while managing peak flow from storm events to prevent community flooding. This high-functioning system takes necessary water management and unites it with nature to introduce both function and beauty to the community.

Upon careful consideration of the concept, its purpose, and the expected end result, Qualico determined the Stormwater KidneyTM was the ideal solution to Dawson’s Landing’s unique problem. Presenting this innovative approach to the City of Chestermere included academic data and a pitch to how the system works within—and benefits—the city’s environmental concerns.

“The vision of Dawson’s Landing was always one that was going to be one with nature and very sensitive to the ecology of Chestermere,” said Clark. “It is a community built around a lake; water is the lifeblood of Chestermere and respecting the existing ecosystem is paramount. The Stormwater KidneyTM is the perfect fit.”

Prior to the decision to implement the Stormwater KidneyTM concept, Dawson’s Landing had plans in place to become home to a future eco-park, including vast wetlands, native plantings, walking trails, education facilities and a boardwalk. This theme, offering a more nature-driven lifestyle, worked toward sustaining the ecology of Chestermere and the addition of the Stormwater KidneyTM enhanced and supported the overall concept.

Stormwater collage

Pictured above: rendering of Stormwater KidneyTM (subject to change)

“The Stormwater KidneyTM tied in well to the theme,” added Clark. “From a visual standpoint, it allows a real natural park area to be developed, and the pond can be used for nature walks and such.”

The decision to implement this unique technology included considerations for the romantic side of water features within a residential community. In addition to the technical functionalities of the kidney, the team considered the enhanced quality of life it would bring. How could they engage more senses of the community’s residents? Beyond the visual benefits of a pond, how could they engage auditory and olfactory senses?

“The balanced ecosystem the Stormwater KidneyTM introduces creates a variety of stimulating experiences,” said Clark. “The ponds will have decorative pumps to move water, creating the soothing sounds of moving water, which will in turn create soft breezes nearby. And when you have moving water, it stirs up natural aromas as well.”

While Dawson’s Landing is in development and currently selling lots, the Stormwater KidneyTM is in mid-production. The kidney’s construction began in 2019, and the first phase is anticipated to be complete by late-summer 2021. Plans include park features, timber boardwalk platforms, bench seating, bio swale features, and pathways around and throughout the pond area. When complete, the first kidney pond will be just over 13 acres in size.

A second pond is currently the design phase, and construction will begin near the end of 2021.

The Stormwater KidneyTM in Dawson’s Landing is the first residential community in the world to implement this technology. While it is a unique solution to Chestermere’s stormwater challenges, it is also one that Qualico is pioneering, driving leadership in the industry.

“Other developers have been approaching us for our knowledge and expertise learned in this process,” said Clark. “We may begin to see this technology appearing in other communities as the benefits reveal themselves over time.”

The benefits to implementing such a unique and robust water management feature within Dawson’s Landing will continue to grow as the community expands. Not only will the system have a deep environmental impact in terms of protecting the community’s delicate ecosystems, but there is also an economic benefit in how the land is protected.

“When you implement a system such as this, there may be an opportunity to protect the land as an environmental reserve,” said Clark. “In Calgary, that means your development costs are reduced as you don’t have to pay levies for that land. It also frees up land for saleable housing, increasing the overall economic strength of the project.”

Once both kidney ponds and their related features have been completed, Dawson’s Landing will be a living experience like no other. Nearly 30 acres of protected wetlands will be within walking distance, containing low-impact trails, pathways, and stunning viewing areas. The sights, sounds, and smells of nature will surround the residents of the area, marrying natural water clarification with the necessary water management of a new community.



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