Canadian Infrastructure not Ready for Climate Change

Flooding at Meadowvale Conservation Area

June 8, 2017 (MISSISSAUGA) – Climate change is here. From droughts to floods, we see its impacts through more frequent extreme weather. Yet despite this increased frequency and severity, a new report finds that Canada’s water, building, transportation, information, communications and other infrastructure are not currently equipped to handle the effects of climate change.

The State of Play report, released by the Infrastructure and Buildings Working Group (IBWG), provides an overview of the state of climate change adaptation in Canada and the activities underway in the infrastructure and building sectors. In preparing the report, the Working Group assessed infrastructure systems across Canada and found potential risks to the communities served by those systems. Rising temperatures, altered water conditions and more frequent extreme weather events all pose a risk to Canadian communities. The report identifies various gaps and opportunities as well as options for addressing them.

“The social disruption, environmental impact and economic loss from increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events requires action to improve the climate resilience of our public infrastructures,” said David Lapp, Practice Lead, Globalization and Sustainable Development, Engineers Canada. “The IBWG report reinforces the need for us to adjust design codes, standards and other instruments that increasingly do not account for such changes.”

On July 8, 2013, the Toronto area experienced its most intense storm in recent years. Parts of the city were pounded by over 120 mm of rain, most of it falling within a two-hour span. Infrastructure was heavily damaged. The storm was the most expensive natural disaster in Ontario’s history, with a total of nearly $1 billion in insured losses.

“Each year thousands of households across Canada are affected by extreme rainfall related flood events, resulting in hundreds of millions of insured and uninsured damages,” said Dan Sandink, Director of Research at the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction. “If we don’t adapt, flood losses and the number of families affected will likely rise considerably in the future. The IBWG report provides great recommendations for adaptation actions that all levels of government and other stakeholders can undertake to better prepare for the effects of climate change.”

For example, the report highlights the realities of a changing climate that require frequent updates to floodplain maps. Areas that were safely outside of the floodplain only 15 years ago may now be in a floodplain where development is regulated.

“An estimated $170 billion is required to replace or repair aging infrastructure and water systems across Canada,” said Peter Nimmrichter, Senior Water Resources Engineer at Amec Foster Wheeler. “Much of this is related to urban stormwater infrastructure that is out of date and not equipped to handle the impacts of our changing climate.”

Yet in preparing the report, the IBWG found examples of communities and governments who are encountering great success with their climate change adaptation activities, and whose work can present best practices that could be adopted in other jurisdictions.

“Ontario’s floodplain management system and network of conservation authorities, for example, is a model for other provinces,” said Christine Zimmer, Senior Manager, Water and Climate Change Science for Credit Valley Conservation. “Ontario municipalities prevent building in floodplains and along rivers, which reduces insurance claims and saves lives.”

The IBWG was cofounded in 2013 by the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction and Engineers Canada, with support from Natural Resources Canada. The IBWG draws on input from a variety of key infrastructure and adaptation experts in Canada. Amec Foster Wheeler and Credit Valley Conservation have led the State of Play project, which is intended to inform the work of Canada’s Climate Change Adaptation Platform, a national forum that brings together key groups in Canada to collaborate on climate change adaptation priorities.

Visit http://www.ibwgsop.org/ to read the Infrastructure and Buildings Working Group’s State of Play report.

Credit Valley Conservation is one of 36 conservation authorities in Ontario. Conservation authorities are provincial/municipal partnerships that manage the natural environment of a watershed, an area of land where the rain and snowmelt drain into a body of water. For more than 60 years, Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) has worked with its partners to build a thriving environment that protects, connects and sustains us. CVC is a member of Conservation Ontario.

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Media Contact
Jon MacMull
Supervisor, Marketing and Communications
Credit Valley Conservation
[email protected]
905-670-1615 ext. 385

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