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Montreal is adding 30 sponge parks and 400 sponge sidewalks to cope with torrential rain

Montreal is accelerating its efforts to adapt to the climate crisis. At the Adaptation Futures event the city hosted last week, mayor Valérie Plante announced Montreal will create around 30 sponge parks and 400 sponge sidewalks in 2024 and 2025.

Sponge sidewalks are sections of sidewalk where pavement is removed to make way for earth and vegetation that absorb and retain rainwater. Similarly, sponge parks are designed to manage excess surface water runoff and prevent sewers from overflowing. Since 2022, the City of Montreal has developed seven sponge parks and 800 sponge sidewalks.

Sewer systems in most countries weren't built for torrential rains that are becoming increasingly common due to climate change. But flooded streets and homes aren't the only problems created by urban environments that can't absorb excess rainfall. When rainwater runs off roofs and down streets, it becomes loaded with microplastics and other pollutants, all of which eventually make their way into rivers, oceans or watersheds.

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Making cities rainproof is gaining ground as the consequences of torrential downpours become unavoidable. Where Montreal stands out is by acting swiftly. This isn't a long-term plan — those 30 sponge parks and 400 sponge sidewalks will be up and run-off-absorbing within the next two years.

In addition to being functional and protective, the new green and blue infrastructure is designed to be visually appealing and support local flora and fauna, addressing social concerns around biodiversity loss while adding much-needed pockets of nature. If your organization manages any kind of real estate, time to pitch in and make it spongey? And if your CFO needs convincing, note that every dollar invested in adaptation can save CAD 13-15, according to the Canadian Climate Institute.