Although it remains in the early days of municipal adoption, the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA) says it believes natural infrastructure may provide sustainable solutions to a changing climate, and it is polling the water sector to gauge the current level of understanding and adoption around the concept.
The CWWA says it intends to use the results of its natural infrastructure survey to “help guide the next steps” of the association and best serve its members.
As natural infrastructure (NI) can have various and inconsistent definitions, CWWA says it relies on the one formed in 2018 by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). It considers natural infrastructure to be “the use of preserved, restored or enhanced elements or combinations of vegetation and associated biology, land, water and naturally occurring ecological processes to meet targeted infrastructure outcomes.”
The survey asks respondents to share the NI definition that may be most common within their own organization.
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When it comes to green infrastructure, CCME says that “others may use the term interchangeably with NI, or in a more global sense to discuss natural assets and capital of all kinds. Across most usages, green infrastructure is distinguished from grey infrastructure based on its ability to emulate many of the functions of NI.”
Grey infrastructure describes features of the built environment made exclusively of materials such as concrete and steel, including bridges, dams, water treatment plants, culverts, ditches and storm drains.
CCME’s framework contains an infrastructure spectrum that gradually increases the use of nature-based solutions in the mix.
The survey also wants respondents to share if their organizations have utilized NI approaches, as well as for how long, and for which purpose, be it stormwater management, flood mitigation, or something else. Respondents are then invited to share specific details about their organization’s NI projects, describe expected benefits from the NI approach, and elaborate on any potential funding involved.
The federal government launched the $200-million Natural Infrastructure Fund in June 2021 to support projects that use natural or hybrid approaches to protect the natural environment, support healthy and resilient communities, and contribute to economic growth and jobs.
CWWA is asking respondents to please submit their survey responses by March 1. Access the survey here.