Canada’s infrastructure plan is a chance to address urban water issues, report

Canada's federal infrastructure plan presents an "unparalleled opportunity" to address urban water infrastructure and protect waterways, says a new report by FLOW. Photo credit: Adobe Stock, hstiver.

A new report released by the Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW) urges the federal government to make innovative and sustainable urban water infrastructure a top priority for its 10-year, $180 billion infrastructure plan.

“The CBC’s recent reporting on the over 200 billion of litres of untreated municipal wastewater that ended up in our rivers, lakes and oceans in 2016 is a stark reminder of the problematic state of much of Canada’s urban water infrastructure,” said Tony Maas, Project Director for FLOW in a press release.

“The federal government’s historic infrastructure plan presents an unparalleled opportunity to address these issues and to transform urban water management to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.”

The report titled Smart, Strategic Investments for Urban Water Sustainability: Seizing Canada’s Infrastructure Moment” (PDF), cites findings of the 2016 Canadian Municipal Infrastructure Report Card, which found that 35% of Canada’s wastewater infrastructure and 29% of drinking water infrastructure is in ‘fair to very poor condition’.

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These issues clearly matter to the public. RBC’s 2016 Water Attitudes (PDF) survey found that, after health care, Canadians believe water services should be the next top priority for government infrastructure funding.

FLOW’s report, which was released on January 19, 2017, urges the federal government to target investments in water infrastructure to solutions that promote environmental and economic sustainability, build resilience to climate change, and leverage new and innovative technologies. The report’s recommendations include:

  • Prioritizing climate readiness and solutions that get the most out of existing infrastructure. Project proposal should be screened to ensure that planned infrastructure can withstand extreme weather conditions such as the heavy rain events we are experiencing as a result of climate change, and to prioritize solutions that maximize the capacity of existing water and wastewater treatment facilities before investing in new, large-scale expansion;
  • Dedicating funding for sustainable solutions. Specific funding streams should be created to support sustainable solutions including water conservation and efficiency programs, optimization of wastewater facilities, living green infrastructure such as urban stream restoration and retention ponds, and technologies that generate energy and recover valuable resources such as nutrients from wastewater; and,
  • Updating regulations. Existing federal wastewater regulations should be updated to strengthen environmental performance, address new contaminants including pharmaceuticals and micro-plastics, and promote uptake of innovative Canadian technologies and practices.

To read the full report and a policy brief, or learn more about the Forum for Leadership on Water, visit:


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