This is the first article in the three-part series Tips for a successful wastewater treatment plant upgrade.

The series provides a framework to help municipalities develop innovative and sustainable wastewater system projects. The articles highlight the three key phases of a project and draw on proven lessons from a dozen of the successful wastewater treatment studies and projects that FCM's Green Municipal Fund (GMF) has funded.

In this article, we cover the first phase: Project scoping and stakeholder engagement. Follow the tips below to develop a project scope and stakeholder engagement strategy that will work for your municipality and get your project off to a strong start.

Project scoping and stakeholder engagement

How a project is defined and who is involved in defining it set the stage for the rest of the wastewater treatment project. In this article, we outline four tips based on best practices for this phase of your project.

Tip 1: Develop a long-term vision

Begin by creating a vision for wastewater treatment in your community over the next 25 to 50 years. Use this vision to drive your short-term planning and decision making. All project plans should clearly demonstrate that the project can both advance these long-term goals and support sustainability plans for your municipality.

  • Form a leadership group to participate in a value-engineering exercise.
  • Use the long-term vision to attract interest and support from funders and community members.
  • Invest in existing systems with the long-term vision in mind, rather than making piecemeal changes.

Learn what other municipalities have done

Read the case study on Cranbrook, BC, to learn about their innovative approach to defining their project's scope. Consult the presentations on project scoping and stakeholder engagement from our online workshop series on wastewater best practices.

Tip 2: Engage early and broadly

Early in the project you must engage with a wide range of decision makers, practitioners, regulators and the public. It is critical to maintain constant communication and hold regular meetings with all the key external stakeholders to keep them informed and involved, and to gain their support for the project.

  • Meet with your provincial environment department officials early in the process to learn from their expertise, gain their support and expedite the permitting process.
  • Engage the community to explain the project and its benefits, and to modify the design to address their concerns. This will help you earn community buy-in and support.
  • Maintain regular engagement with practitioners, decision makers and the public through appropriate communication channels.

Learn what other municipalities have done

Read the case studies on St. Andrews, NB, Picton, ON, and Cranbrook, BC, to see how they engaged stakeholders in their projects. Consult the presentations on project scoping and stakeholder engagement from our online workshop series on wastewater best practices.

Tip 3: Conduct background research

Background research should include assessing the performance of current systems, undertaking optimization studies, conducting feasibility studies and reviewing what other municipalities have done. It is important to learn about other municipalities' experiences, both good and bad, and to conduct a comprehensive review and assessment of viable approaches and their costs. Conducting background research on suitable technologies and innovations is critical to your project's success.

  • Do your own research and involve local regulators, interest groups and citizens. Work with regulators and interest groups (e.g. conservation authorities) and identify the regional environmental trends and requirements (e.g. declining phosphorous limits).
  • Work with operations and maintenance staff to conduct a detailed review of your current operations at the treatment facility before initiating any design. This will reduce the likelihood of repeating design approaches that are not working or of introducing an innovation that is not compatible with the current system.
  • Brainstorm and discuss issues with others to see if you can identify innovative ways to use existing technologies. New technologies may not always be required to achieve your goals.

Learn what other municipalities have done

Read the case studies on St.Andrews, NB, Barrie, ON, and Cranbrook, BC, to discover how solid background research helped their projects succeed. Consult the presentations on project scoping and stakeholder engagement from our online workshop series on wastewater best practices.

Tip 4: Develop a clear project scope

It is important to clearly define the needs and desired outcomes of your project before settling on a new technological solution or deciding that optimized use of existing technology will work. Be sure to develop a clear project definition that presents the scope of the project, as well as its goals, objectives, functional requirements, financial considerations and timelines.

Checklist for a successful wastewater treatment plant upgrade

Use our project checklist to ensure you are addressing the key issues in every phase of your project.

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