Umbrella Stormwater Bulletin 51

18 January 2017
Published by Green Communities Canada

Urban Flooding in Ontario: Toward Collective Impact Solutions

We have some exciting news. The first draft of our report Urban Flooding in Ontario: Toward Collective Impact Solutions report is ready for review. Our aim is to make this a consensus statement about urban flooding as the basis for collaborative action, and we are interested in your input and suggestions. Click the button below to contact our Climate Adaptation Intern, Anastasia Kaschenko, who will be in touch with the report and further details about feedback.
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Urban flooding has enormous and growing impacts on our economy, health, and environment. It is a complex problem with no easy solutions that requires a collaborative multi-sectoral response. 

Over the past six months, Green Communities Canada in partnership with Credit Valley Conservation and Institute of Catastrophic Loss Reduction has initiated the first phase of a Collective Impact project supported by Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Our Urban Flooding in Ontario: Toward Collective Impact Solutions report defines the issue of urban flooding, explores impacts and drivers, provides an overview of relevant initiatives to date, and lists potential actions as a starting point for discussion. Multiple stakeholders, including private sector, nongovernmental, governments, academic, property owners, and others -- need to collaborate in finding and implementing solutions. We intend for our report to lay the foundation for a practical and collaborative approach to addressing a difficult, costly, and complex issue facing our province in the years to come: urban flooding. 

Our focus is on the relatively neglected issue of urban flooding, i.e., inundation that occurs on the landscape, away from riverine flood plains. Urban flooding results from stormwater management systems that are overwhelmed by runoff volumes. Urban flooding also includes combined sewer overflows and sewer backup due to inflow and infiltration. We outline trends and impacts, including billions of dollars of economic activity lost due to flooding; health and issues such as respiratory illness resulting from flood-induced mould; and environmental impacts of erosion and habitat disruption. We cover contributing causes of urban flooding, the most significant of which we believe to be land-use changes and urbanization. The rainwater runoff from the increased impervious surfaces is compounded by inadequate and aging stormwater infrastructure systems and exacerbated by climate change (increased extreme wet weather events). 

Municipal, Provincial and Federal government responses to date are documented, along with initiatives undertaken by Conservation Authorities, the private sector, academic institutions and non-profits. A proposed list of potential solutions to be considered in the next phase of this project concludes our report, prompting our reviewers to envision solutions they consider priorities for solving the urban flooding issue. 

We hope to receive all feedback by 6 February 2017, at which point we will develop a revised document that most if not all stakeholders can endorse. In the next phase, building on a broad consensus about the problem, our priority will shift to identifying and implementing solutions, involving a similarly broad spectrum of stakeholders. Although solutions and the way forward are not clear at this point, we do know that urban flooding is also a problem that no single actor or group can solve on their own. Complex problems like urban flooding require a collective impact approach to identify and implement preventive remedies, in which participants all have a role to play. We have to work together to get the job done.

To view the full report, get involved in the collaborative process or ask any questions please contact Anastasia Kaschenko at 705.745.7479 x.160 or email her now: 
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Runoff volume controls. Ontario’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change will post its proposed run-off volume control targets as early as this month on the province’s Environmental Bill of Rights registry. “The targets are ambitious and are sure to attract lots of discussion,” says Clifford Maynes, who represents Green Infrastructure Ontario on the Ministry’s stakeholder review group. For new construction and redevelopment the targets will require low impact development (green infrastructure) to achieve pre-development water balance. Run-off must be controlled onsite up to the 90th percentile rainfall event. “It’s an exciting paradigm shift,” says Maynes. “Champions of green infrastructure will need make their voices heard.” 

A new Canadian green street. This winter Edmonton reconstructed nearly five city blocks to capture rain that will be used to water street side trees and vegetation. Additionally, the street is pedestrian- oriented with stone walkways and a roadway that is designed to accommodate cyclists. The road, referred to as the Armature, is referred to as the ‘heart’ of a larger downtown revitalization project.

Road salt—keeping roads safe but killing our waterways. Each year Canadian municipalities use millions of tonnes of salt to prevent traffic collisions, and slips. However, the use of road salt creates environmental issues and increases the rate of corrosion of bridges, roads and buildings. For these reasons researchers are exploring some interesting alternatives —beet juice, cheese and pickle brine, garlic salt and, grass, and kitchen waste.  

Apps to showcase green stormwater infrastructure. Geographic information systems (GIS) are increasingly being used to help identify opportunities, and develop strategic plans for implementing green stormwater infrastructure. Additionally, GIS is being used to create graphic, educational maps to inform the public. In Philadelphia, they use an online story map to showcase the most used stormwater tools—how they are designed, constructed and basic monitoring results. In Iowa, the Bee Branch Watershed has created an online map that features locations and before and after pictures of reconstructed green alleys.

Plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. A new study estimates that nearly 22 million pounds of plastic enter the Great Lakes each year. The findings show that plastic accounts for approximately 80% of litter along the Great Lakes shorelines. Researchers also state that they also know that there is a large amount of plastic that does not float and this amount is not included in their calculations. Despite the detrimental impacts on the environment and human health, only a few Canadian cities have banned the use of plastic bags. However, the banning of other plastic products, such as fleece jackets, may also need to be considered.


Complete Streets are Green Streets. Toronto’s new Complete Streets Guidelines feature green infrastructure for stormwater management, cooling, and other functions as part of what it means to be a complete street. The document is largely focused on accommodating all modes of transportation on the street, including pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit users. However, a section is devoted to ways of incorporating green infrastructure. Joined up thinking! 

Blueprint for One Water. Increasingly, water utilities and municipalities are recognizing the need to manage water holistically and create a framework for managing surface water, groundwater, stormwater, wastewater, and energy collaboratively. Recently, the Water Research Foundation released a blueprint to help guide One Water planning processes and support stakeholders in adopting this practice.  In Canada, Credit Valley Conservation has also been developing an Integrated Risk Management Framework to Support ‘One Water’ in Municipalities.


Climate Extremes: National Collaboration on Floods and Droughts. Conference and workshops. 8-4:30 PM (ET). 27 January 2017. Ottawa, ON. Presented by CWRA and CSHS in partnership with Environment and Climate Change Canada. Register online.

Maintenance and Rehabilitation of Low Impact Development. Webinar. Noon - 1 PM (ET) 16 February 2017. Hosted by Sustainable Technologies Evaluation Program. Register online.

The 6th Annual TRIECA. Conference. 22-23 March 2017. Brampton, ON. Hosted by TRCA and the Canadian Chapter of the IECAEarly bird registration ends 3 February 2017.

Want to see more events? Check out the RAIN Events Calendar for other upcoming green infrastructure workshops, training, webinars and conferences.

The Umbrella Stormwater Bulletin is a free, monthly newsletter on green stormwater infrastructure published by the RAIN Community Solutions program of Green Communities Canada. Our audience is made up of municipal stormwater professionals, policymakers, academics, engineers, conservation authorities, nonprofits, and interested community members. We encourage submissions from our readers. Please contact the editor to submit a news item, blog idea, or event. RAIN Community Solutions builds support for and participation in stormwater innovations that reduce runoff by managing rain where it falls.

Copyright © 2017 Green Communities Canada, All rights reserved.


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