Montreal plans 30 more ‘sponge’ parks over two years to manage rainfall

sponge city park Montreal
Parc Pierre-Dansereau is one example of Montreal's efforts to create a "sponge city". Photo Credit: City of Montreal

The City of Montreal plans to develop 30 “sponge” parks and 400 sidewalks over the next two years in an effort to withstand more frequent heavy rainfall brought on by climate change, announced Mayor Valérie Plante.

Montreal already ranked fourth in a February 2023 list of the “spongiest” cities in the world, behind Mumbai, New York and Singapore, after it created seven sponge parks and 800 sidewalks since 2022. The goal is to develop at least 8,500 m² of draining green infrastructure on the street to retain the equivalent of three Olympic swimming pools of water. 

Montreal is looking to slow down the quantity of water flowing into its sewer infrastructure during rainstorms by such low-cost measures as vegetated plains, sunken play areas, or even multi-functional in-ground pools. They can all help to redirect water towards watercourses until the sewer network can handle the load, or the water seeps gradually into the ground, local officials said.

Plante made the announcement about the project’s expansion during the Adaptation Futures 2023 conference hosted by Montreal earlier in October, which welcomed climate change adaptation specialists from around the world. The work will be funded in part by a $117-million agreement with the Quebec government as part of its green economy plan. 

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“Political decision-makers and the scientific community must join forces to find the most rapid and effective solutions to implement to limit as much as possible the impacts of climate change which are experienced by the population,” announced Mayor Plante in a statement. “Our administration is working hard to adapt the territory and deal with the heavy rains that fall in Montreal, New York and around the world more and more frequently.”

Montreal has been building sponge sidewalks for 10 years in particularly high-risk areas. The sidewalks often involve more permeable concrete concepts that utilize gaps for rainwater or incorporate portions of green infrastructure gardens for absorption. 

Plante has also discussed the creation of sponge roads that could see the removal of parking spaces for the addition of more permeable sections that could help keep more roads open during severe flooding.

Local officials estimate that above-ground rainfall resilience measures cost approximately half that of underground developments.

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