In Winter 1996 term, graduate students at the School of Urban and Regional Planning, produced a report on alternatives for Laurel Creek on University of Waterloo campus. The students, members of PLAN 720, worked under the guidance of Professor Larry Martin to produce the report, Towards Rehabilitation of Laurel Creek. The report is available on the internet at www.fes.uwaterloo.ca/Courtyard/Laurel/ .
The goal of the class was "To provide recommendations for improving the water quality of Laurel Creek within the University of Waterloo campus while attempting to balance the interests of all concerned". The goal reflected concerns from students, University administrators, City of Waterloo planners, and others that water quality in Laurel Creek was degraded on University property. The University of Waterloo campus represents approximately 10% of the Laurel Creek watershed, and is upstream of most of the City of Waterloo (GRCA 1993). Thus, poor water quality in the creek on University lands affects the remainder of the watershed.
Members of the class recognized the importance of understanding all issues affecting water quality in the creek. Accordingly, the class divided into work teams which could each collect information about a series of topics. We collected information from published documents, such as the Laurel Creek Watershed Study (GRCA 1993), University of Waterloo Master Plan (UW 1992), and Subwatershed Plan 311 (City of Waterloo 1995). We also conducted interviews with stakeholders within the University, and from the wider community. Finally, we held a workshop to elicit feedback and guidance from a variety of persons with expertise and interests in Laurel Creek, water quality, the University of Waterloo, and other relevant issues.
It became clear that there were many issues relevant to any rehabilitation or restoration of Laurel Creek. Water quality issues relate directly to physical/chemical and biological properties of the Creek. Stakeholder issues represent a summary of concerns expressed by members of the University community, the wider community, and interest groups, in relation to any proposed changes to the stream or reservoirs on campus. Both sets of issues are equally valid and real, and must be considered if rehabilitation of the Creek on campus is to occur.
The issues listed above were considered when developing options for Laurel Creek on campus. The class recognized that no single solution existed for any part of the creek which would address all the relevant issues. Thus, for each component identified as being in need of rehabilitation, more than one alternative was presented. Since our stated goal was to improve water quality, we felt that it would be beneficial to identify the options which would best achieve this goal. These "recommended" alternatives are identified in the list below.
This option requires no changes to current management practices or existing structures. The disadvantage of this option is the continued degradation for water quality, with the associated costs for dredging and eventual remediation measures. There may also be negative implications for town-gown relations and aesthetic quality.
2.1 Stream system (dry facility) - RECOMMENDED OPTION
Columbia Lake will be converted to a stable, meandering stream with vegtated banks and a natural floodplain. Special features such as wetlands, playground equipment, and research stations may also be included.
2.2 Lake by-pass
An earth berm will be used to separate Columbia Lake from a stream on the west side. Banks of the lake and stream will have riparian vegetation. Water quality in the lake will continue to degrade in this option, but water quality in Laurel Creek would be improved.
2.3 Modified lake
Columbia Lake will be somewhat reduced in size, with a low flow by-pass installed on the bottom to transport cooler water from upstream of the lake to Laurel Creek downstream. Wetland and riparian vegetation can be added to the lake edges in a manner that would maintain aesthetic views. The lake will be dredged and deepened to reduce its negative impacts on downstream water quality.
This option will slightly reduce the size of the existing pond, and add wetland and aquatic vegetation along the edges. Water would be encouraged to move through more quickly by a dredged center channel.
3.2 Stream system - RECOMMENDED OPTION
A naturalized, meandering stream will be created at the site of the current pond. This requires some changes to existing structures and dredging of the center channel. Natural riparian and wetland vegetation will be added to the stream edges.
4.1 Lake by-pass
This option is similar to option 2.2 as described for Columbia Lake. An earth berm will be constructed to divert water from Laurel Creek away from the lake. This option preserves the aesthetic qualities of a reservoir on South Campus, while offering some improvement to water quality downstream.
4.2 Pond/wetland - RECOMMENDED OPTION
Laurel Lake will be somewhat reduced in size, with wetland and aquatic vegetation added. A low-flow bottom bypass or dredged center channel will allow movement of cool water through the pond.
5.1 Restore riparian vegetation - RECOMMENDED OPTION
Vegetation on streambanks will buffer runoff pollution of the stream, provide habitat for birds and other wildlife, and enhance the natural appearance of the stream.
5.2 Restore natural streambanks - RECOMMENDED OPTION
Gabions can be removed where appropriate, and regrading can be used to help maintain stream stability. Revegetation is an important component of this option.
5.3 Restore creek meanders - RECOMMENDED OPTION
Some sections of the creek can be restored to its historic path. In other locations, meanders may be created in conjunction with other restorative work.
6.1 Constructed wetland detention facility - RECOMMENDED OPTION
Storrnwater from the main outlet pipe by the Student Life Centre will be directed into a constructed wetland facility. This facility would mitigate some negative impacts of stormwater, through mechanisms such as deposition of sediment and vegetative uptake of pollutants.
6.2 Parking lot stormwater management - RECOMMENDED OPTION
Currently, most campus parking lots drain runoff directly into Laurel Creek. We suggest that as reconstruction occurs, stormwater management should be incorporated into campus lots.
7.1 Reservoirs and creek - RECOMMENDED OPTION
7.2 Stormwater management - RECOMMENDED OPTIONS
Reduce runoff from North Campus agricultural and recreational fields.
Implement at-source controls where possible on South Campus, for example, when buildings are constructed or expanded.
Before any alternatives are implemented, we strongly recommend that a consultation process should occur. The feasibility and legality of any option needs to be investigated before they can be put in place, and appropriate stakeholders should be included in the process. Some suggestions for implementation are included in the report.
Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA). 1993. Laurel Creek Watershed Study.
University of Waterloo (UW). 1992. University of Waterloo Campus Master Plan. Prepared by Berridge Lewinberg Greenberg Ltd., Hemson Consulting Ltd., Hough Stansbury Woodland Ltd., BA Consulting Group Ltd., UMA Engineering Ltd.