Over the last decade, flooding has become the costliest extreme weather disaster affecting Canadians. According to research by Intact Center on Climate Adaptation, the average cost of house repairs after a basement flood is $43,000[1]. And the price tag for infrastructure repairs can be much higher, putting additional pressure on – often limited – municipal resources.

As this trend is not likely to change in the near future, our communities need to become more resilient.

Municipalities across the country are working hard on mitigating flood risks and protecting their communities from water-related catastrophes. As the changing climate brings more unpredictability to municipal planning efforts, there is no time or space for a trial-and-error approach. Municipalities need robust and reliable tools that can help them mitigate risks and protect their communities from water-related catastrophes.

Standard-based solutions to support climate resilience and adaptation

Over the last couple of years, CSA Group has developed a suite of water-related standards intended to help manage and protect water resources and build climate resilience in communities. These standards provide requirements and guidelines for flood resilient design of new communities, prioritizing flood mitigation actions in existing communities, managing stormwater systems, and designing bioretention systems. In addition, CSA Group standards and guidelines also address erosion and sediment control and the role of local rainfall considerations (rainfall intensity, duration, and frequency) in infrastructure planning.

The majority of CSA water-related standards are designated as National Standards of Canada, the first accredited standards of their kind in the country. CSA Group standards are developed through a consensus process by a committee of volunteer members. These subject matter experts from across Canada represent, as much as possible, all relevant stakeholder groups in a balanced manner, which helps ensure that different points of view are considered in the standards development process. As a result, CSA Group water-related standards can be leveraged by municipalities of various sizes and technical readiness.

Recently, we added two new publications to the portfolio of CSA Group’s water-related standards: CSA W210:21, Prioritization of flood risk in existing communities, and CSA W211:21, Management standard for stormwater systems.

Assessing flood risks and vulnerabilities

Facing the reality of more frequent extreme weather events, Canadian municipalities need to understand where flooding might present the most significant risk in their communities. CSA W210:21, a National Standard of Canada, offers a much-needed tool to help support flexible, practical, and effective mitigation programs in existing communities.

A process of scoring and ranking outlined in CSA W210:21 can assist users of the Standard in assessing the risk of flooding and its impact on people, the economy, infrastructure, and the environment. Such assessment can help prioritize measures and investments and direct them towards the high-risk areas.

Learn more about CSA W210:21.

Managing stormwater systems

Extreme weather and increased urbanization also put an additional burden on stormwater infrastructure. This requires new considerations and approaches to the management of stormwater systems design, operation, maintenance, and emergency response. To help improve the effective management of these systems, increase their resiliency, and encourage proactive and preventative management strategies, CSA Group developed a new National Standard of Canada, CSA W211:21.

CSA W211:21 brings more clarity on the relationship between the key elements needed to manage a stormwater system and outlines what information is needed to do so. While providing guidance to owners operating and managing stormwater systems in their area or region, the Standard also considers the potential impacts of these systems on neighbouring municipalities.

Learn more about CSA W211:21.

Guiding municipalities through standards implementation

Despite the strong technical merits of CSA Group water-related standards, understanding how they fit into the existing governance structure of a municipality can be challenging. Larger cities typically have access to considerable engineering and planning resources; however, small and medium-size towns may lack these resources and the capacity to incorporate standards into their regulatory mechanisms. To help overcome this challenge, CSA Group is developing a comprehensive step-by-step Implementation Guide.

Using simple language and visual tools, the Guide will help managers, urban planners, and elected municipal officials understand how CSA Group standards can be integrated into bylaws, policies, development plans, requests for proposals, or contracts and how they can support regional and provincial policies. The Guide will also provide practical examples of policy language and suggest options for referencing standards in various documents.

The Implementation Guide is being developed in close collaboration with municipalities across Canada. First, CSA Group will leverage and consolidate experiences from the early adoption of the standards by a number of communities to inform the development of the Guide. The usability and scalability of the Guide will be then validated by selected municipalities. This should help ensure towns and cities are equipped with a robust, solid tool that can assist them in integrating CSA Group standards into their day-to-day operations and forward-looking planning, a tool that is based on tangible examples from municipalities that have done so already.

The Implementation Guide is expected to be published in April 2022. Sign up to get the copy.

[1] Under One Umbrella: Practical Approaches for Reducing Flood Risks in Canada, November 2020

Featured image: iStock

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