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2008 Wastewater

City of Québec

Restoration of the St. Charles River Waterfront and Development of the Linear Park

Population: 500,000

Created in 1995, the Commission pour la mise en valeur du projet de dépollution et de renaturalisation has significantly transformed the Saint Charles river after 10 years of major wastewater treatment and site clean-up efforts. This work was completed as part of the development of a linear park that includes a 30-kilometre pedestrian pathway linking Lake Saint Charles to Québec City's Vieux Port. Fourteen retention reservoirs were constructed and eight kilometres of formerly concrete banks were restored and naturalized, among other improvements. The Saint Charles is now a brand new river that participants in Québec City's 400th anniversary celebrations can enjoy.


Running through the heart of Québec City, the St. Charles River has suffered from the demands of urban life for many years, and four kilometres of its waterfront had been stripped bare and paved over. More than 50 times every summer, wastewater from combined sewers would overflow into the river. An overabundance of fecal coliforms and other waste had compromised the river's natural ecosystem. Over time, the quality of the water in the St. Charles River had sharply deteriorated, the riverbanks had become damaged and its aquatic and wildlife ecosystems had disappeared. In addition, the recreational infrastructure along the river had ceased to meet the needs of the population. It became a matter of urgency to clean up the river, restore its natural character, and make it accessible for residents and tourists alike. The St. Charles River is the main natural artery of development. The district alongside it is presently undergoing a period of residential and commercial growth, and former industrial buildings are being rehabilitated.


  • The restoration of the St. Charles River waterfront and the development of a linear park have created an attractive environment for hiking, cycling and watersports, and have beautified the riverbanks using an innovative environmental approach.
  • Approximately 65,000 square metres of diverse wildlife habitat (for deepwater wildlife, amphibians and reptiles, small mammals and birds) has been created in urban areas.
  • The river has been restored by planting native plant species, which has reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The 14 retention ponds now prevent 90 per cent of overflows. As a result, six million cubic metres of wastewater are prevented from being discharged into the river each year.
  • The Vieux-Port area of Québec City is now linked to Lake St. Charles by 30 kilometres of trails in a linear park dotted with parks, woodlands, walkways, lookouts and steps.
  • Since 2000, not only has residential and commercial development spread, but residents have also discovered and adopted the new waterfront, which has brought significant economic and social benefits to the area.
  • The city's dynamic central system of overflow management has made it a leader in this field. Representatives from many cities travel to Québec City to study the system that has been put in place along the St. Charles River waterfront.

Lessons Learned

  • COST REDUCTION IS SOMETIMES NECESSARY. Over the course of this 12-year project, retention ponds were installed on nearby municipal land. The objective was to minimize the investment in construction and to reduce the impact of the ponds on the environment as much as possible.

  • TECHNIQUES MUST BE ADAPTED TO DEAL WITH PROBLEMS THAT ARISE. During the river embankment work, which was undertaken during the first phases of the restoration project, there were problems relating to the settling of materials. After further geotechnical analysis, it was decided to deposit earth in successive layers. To protect the wetlands in the linear park, the city also changed the type of infrastructure it was going to use, using screwed-in stakes to support the weight without affecting the environment.
  • CONSULTATION BETWEEN SPECIALISTS IN VARIOUS FIELDS IS PARAMOUNT. Numerous authorities needed to be consulted to properly plan this complex project. It is essential to have specialist knowledge of the field, and also to be aware of what is happening in similar initiatives elsewhere in Canada.

Partners and Collaboration

  • Federal government
  • Provincial government
  • Fondation de la faune du Québec
  • Société de la rivière Saint-Charles
  • Chantiers urbains
  • Wendake Amerindian Reserve
  • Association pour la protection de l'environnement du lac Saint-Charles
  • Rivière vivante
Page Updated: 21/12/2015