Many of the current and projected climate change impacts within Canada relate to water: more intense rainfall, precipitation increases, changing seasonal availability of freshwater, etc. These changes, combined with factors like land use and urban development, mean flooding is and will remain a key concern for municipalities.
Canadian municipalities are fully or partly responsible for managing the assets and services – such as drainage systems and drinking water provision – that make our everyday life possible. Municipalities also influence where buildings get located and how they are built. Therefore, municipalities play a central role in determining if and how communities will adapt to the impacts of climate change on the water cycle and sea levels.
This webpage includes links to key resources municipalities can use when planning and implementing local climate action responses relating to flooding. The resources have been developed as part of the Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program (MCIP).
On this page
Access resources that address water-related climate impacts from the scale of single households to that of entire communities
Find out what Canadian municipalities are doing to obtain the best possible data – from climate projections to flood risk mapping – to support decision making
Learn from examples of adaptation plans that help communities prioritize where and when to act
Be inspired by on-the-ground projects that municipalities have implemented to reduce flood risk at the neighbourhood level
Understand how integrating climate change considerations into asset management can bolster a municipality’s resilience against flooding
See what resources MCIP has developed on water-related topics beyond flooding
From homes to entire communities: the scale of flooding impacts on municipalities
Flooding, whether it is coastal, fluvial or stormwater-related, can affect entire communities, requiring concerted action over a wide area. Many communities across Canada are creating and implementing climate change adaptation plans to address water-related issues. In British Columbia, the Cities of Surrey and Campbell River have worked with the community to create plans and prioritize actions that address coastal flooding and sea level rise. In Port Burwell, ON, low-impact development methods were used to reconstruct the village’s stormwater management infrastructure, reducing flood risk in the community.
In some cases, specific neighbourhoods are at risk of flooding, requiring a more targeted approach. The borough of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal in Montréal, QC conducted a feasibility study for the creation of a ‘water square,’ a multifunctional public space that sustainably manages rainwater and improves citizen quality of life. The Region of Peel, ON installed a bioswale made up of granular material and native plants in the centre median of a six-lane roadway to reduce stormwater runoff and improve watershed health.
Flooding can also affect specific municipal assets and infrastructure, reducing a municipality’s ability to provide essential services. For example, the operation of wastewater treatment plants can be impacted by inflow and infiltration. A case study series details the steps five municipalities took to adapt their water, wastewater, stormwater and other municipal infrastructure to climate impacts.
Finally, flooding also impacts individual homes. The Climate Resilient Home tool identifies how new construction or retrofit projects can make buildings more resilient to flooding and other threats, considering everything from landscape design to roof construction.
Take action: Assess vulnerability and risk
One of the first steps municipalities should take is to seek the most relevant data about current vulnerabilities (e.g. areas at risk of flooding) and climate projections for their local area, and use this information as a basis for action and decisions.
The MCIP publication ‘Using Better Data to Identify Climate Change-Related Infrastructure Vulnerabilities in Canadian Communities’ details case studies from communities that have done just that: collecting and analyzing datasets to inform decision-making on risk reduction and adaptation for municipal water systems. In Edmonton, AB, the city and local water and energy utility company worked to understand flood risk at the sub-basin level and to overlay this with priorities identified through community consultation, which resulted in placing higher emphasis on risk to health and safety and social impacts. The City of Moncton, NB sought to identify gaps in neighbourhood and stormwater development standards by building a model to project likely rainfall and storm scenarios – and hence risks to key infrastructure – and determine priorities for adaptation planning.
Windsor, ON was one of eight communities that conducted concurrent climate vulnerability and risk assessments through MCIP. Having experienced two 100-year floods in the last five years, flooding was a top consideration for the city.
A positive development for municipalities has been the substantial cost reduction of light detection and ranging (known as LiDAR) data. LiDAR is a remote sensing method that allows the creation of high-resolution elevation mapping, enabling the identification of areas at risk of flooding and better planning of attenuation options. MCIP funded LiDAR mapping for the Red River Basin in Manitoba as well as two interactive tools to help communities in the Petite-Nation River region, QC analyze and map their flood risk and better manage stormwater.
Take action: Plan to adapt
Assessing risk is the first step towards planning for adaptation. FCM has supported various Canadian municipalities in creating climate change adaptation plans that seek to reduce water-related risks for communities. One such municipality was the City of Calgary, AB. By mapping fluvial and stormwater flood hazard areas, the city was able to include policies within their Municipal Development Plan to guide the planning and regulations that govern development.
In Campbell River, BC, the city’s recently adopted Sea Level Rise Action Plan puts in motion a series of interventions to protect the community and the surrounding ecosystems from the impacts of rising sea levels. The city worked extensively with the community to create a plan that prioritizes protection of the shoreline, community infrastructure and other assets and emphasizes building capacity through education.
The City of Surrey, BC created a Coastal Flood Adaptation Strategy (CFAS) in 2019 which complements the city’s broader Climate Adaptation Strategy. The CFAS was developed through a three-year planning process, where a range of adaptation approaches were evaluated and refined using a values-based approach. Over 2,000 community members were engaged in project decision-making, resulting in longer-term strategic directions as well as a range of short-, medium- and long-term actions.
Saskatoon, SK has moved from an ad-hoc approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation based on need – such as considering climate adaptation within different sustainability initiatives like corporate asset management planning, flood control and green infrastructure – towards integrating these initiatives in a holistic adaptation strategy.
Natural assets such as wetlands and forests often play a critical role in preventing or reducing flooding of nearby or downstream urban areas. Understanding these services and how much they are worth to a municipality, now and in the face of a changing climate, can support municipalities—such as these six across Canada—to better plan the protection and management of natural assets.
Take action: Design and implement projects that reduce risk
All over Canada, communities are designing and implementing projects that reduce the risk of flooding.
One example is the City of Fredericton, NB, which has implemented innovative solutions such as elevating roads and using parking areas for detention or conveyance of flood waters to combat fluvial and coastal flooding. The city’s approach involves explicit trade-offs between the provision of services like drainage, transportation and emergency services—something Fredericton has informed and consulted the public about.
MCIP has funded capital projects relating to stormwater management, for example: Port Burwell, ON low-impact development methods for reconstruction; the borough of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal in Montréal, QC and its planned multi-functional public square; and the road median bioswale constructed by the Region of Peel, ON.
Spotlight on: Asset management
Asset management is often the most obvious way in which climate change impacts interact with municipal responsibilities. Of all the services municipalities provide to communities, several key ones (water supply, drainage, wastewater conveyance and treatment) are directly linked to water, while others such as transportation are often majorly affected by water-related climate change impacts or—for example in the case of recreation, electrical, health and emergency services—can potential be so.
Municipal asset management is inextricably linked to quality of life. To preserve it, municipalities must address the risk posed by climate change to their infrastructure, as outlined in this article. MCIP’s ‘Guide for Integrating Climate Change Considerations into Municipal Asset Management’ lays out a series of clear steps, from identification of service areas and of the assets that support service provision all the way to integrating climate change-related actions into municipal asset management plans.
Other water-related resources
Water is central to the climate change equation. It all boils down to too much water, too little water or water (and buildings or infrastructure) in the wrong place. MCIP has produced or funded resources relating to water beyond the topic of flooding.
Water supply, one of the key service areas municipalities have responsibility for, is and will be impacted by climate change. The Rural Municipality of Springfield, MB relies on groundwater to meet all of its domestic, commercial and industrial water needs. The municipality undertook a mapping and planning exercise to create a 10-year plan that will help the municipality revise its by-laws and policies to protect groundwater quality and availability.
Edmonton-area municipalities benefited from several guides detailing local climate change impacts, including one about water security that outlined historical conditions and projected changes in surface water supply, quality and demand.
These resources were funded as part of the Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program (MCIP), a five-year, $75 million program funded by Infrastructure Canada and delivered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).
This resource was developed by the Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program (2017-2022). This program was delivered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and funded by the Government of Canada.