HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA--(Sept. 12, 2016) - Canadian municipalities are in need of new solutions for stormwater management that are financially sustainable, fair to property owners, and address the increasing challenges posed by climate change and extreme weather, according to 'New Solutions for Sustainable Stormwater Management in Canada', a report published today by Sustainable Prosperity, a University of Ottawa-based think tank.
"Managing stormwater run-off is a growing challenge for many Canadian municipalities," says Sara Jane O'Neill, senior researcher and report author. "Stormwater infrastructure is costly to install and maintain yet, in all but a few communities, stormwater programs lack dedicated and sustainable funding."
O'Neill points out that urbanization has increased the area of hard surfaces, resulting in greater stormwater runoff and degraded water quality in receiving rivers, streams and lakes. Changing weather patterns have also increased extreme storm events, sometimes overwhelming the capacity of existing stormwater infrastructure, putting people and property at risk.
The report says the financial and environmental cost of simply continuing to build expensive infrastructure to channel stormwater out of urban areas and into rivers, streams and lakes is unsustainable.
O'Neill says in most Canadian towns and cities the cost of building and maintaining stormwater infrastructure is usually buried in property taxes leaving property owners with little or no information about how much they are paying for stormwater management or how the costs are calculated.
"Stormwater user fees could provide a dedicated, transparent and sustainable financing system. Property owners would know what steps they could take as individuals to better manage stormwater and reduce their user fees," says O'Neill. "If the municipality then also offers incentives for green infrastructure, such as rain gardens and green roofs, property owners could further reduce costs and also help create more liveable communities."
A hybrid stormwater infrastructure system that includes green infrastructure such as rain gardens and green roofs, could be financially and environmentally sustainable. The traditional infrastructure, such as pipes and culverts, would continue to lead runoff away from urban areas, but the natural, green infrastructure would help absorb some of the stormwater, reducing the amount of pollution and the severity of urban flooding but also reducing the capital costs associated with traditional stormwater infrastructure and creating greener neighborhoods.
"Implementing these new solutions for our urban stormwater management practices would not only save municipal governments money in the long-term, but would also combat many of the environmental ills that have resulted from urbanization serviced by traditional stormwater management alone."
O'Neill adds that the new federal government's commitment to fund green infrastructure at the municipal level means the time is right for Canadian municipalities to act.
"The 2016 budget provided $120-billion for infrastructure including a $5-billion investment in green infrastructure projects to support the future prosperity of Canadian communities and promote a sustainable economy. This opens the door for municipal leaders to play their part in helping address the challenge of stormwater management," says O'Neill.
Canadian best practices covered in the report include Victoria, BC, Mississauga, ON, and Kitchener, ON, which have all implemented stormwater user fees to create a dedicated and fair funding mechanism as well as credit or rebate programs to encourage property owners to manage stormwater on-site through green infrastructure.
The full report is available here: institute.smartprosperity.ca/stormwater
Smart Prosperity Institute