Calgary Regional Partnership presentation: Canadian Water and Wastewater Association


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(Text) Presentation by the Calgary Regional Partnership to the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association event in Ottawa November 26, 2012.

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Calgary Regional Partnership presentation: Canadian Water and Wastewater Association

  1. 1. CRP Presentation to CWWA Annual Conference Ottawa, 28 November 2012Introduction:Slide 1) Metro Plan Cover with CRPYou know, planning for a large region – especially where municipalities areNOT compelled to plan together but must choose to participate on avoluntary, collaborative basis – is a complicated thing to do.It is as much an art – the art of leadership, team-building, seekingconsensus and dealing with divergent interests – as it is about science –fitting our expanding human needs “sustainably” into the natural landscapeand environment. Science makes it complex; relationships can make itcomplicated – both are at play as we try to plan for our region together.Now, adding to that complexity and dialogue the very possibility that theunderlying stability of our natural environment may be shifting throughclimate change and variability impacts has made the challenges all themore complex and urgent for us to work through together.That has been our collective challenge in the Calgary region since 2006and one that I am pleased to be able to tell you about through this briefpresentation. Perhaps it will raise questions for you and, hopefully, it willevoke some insights from your perspectives that our region can benefitfrom learning about. 1|Page
  2. 2. Slide 2, 3, 4) Presentation OverviewI have structured my presentation to tell you about three things: 1 – our regional context - the Calgary region as a place 2 – What our Calgary Metropolitan Plan is trying to achieve in the context of climate change challenges and adaptation strategies 3 – What we’re doing to learn more about climate change implications and how to collectively adapt at a regional scale to emerging realitiesOur Regional Context:Slide 5) Map of the Calgary region, with names of member municipalitiesThe Calgary Regional Partnership is a voluntary collaboration of 14municipalities representing over 1.3 million people. 84% of our populationlives in Calgary, 12% in other urban communities and 6% live in the ruralcounties and municipal districts.Membership in the Partnership extends from the Townsite of Banff in theRocky Mountains to the west, across the foothills to the flatland agriculturalcommunities east of Calgary; it stretches from Airdrie to the north to Nanton,about a 45 minute drive south of Calgary.Since 1999 the member municipalities have been working proactively toensure that our region’s growth and settlement pattern will be sustainable.Our Calgary Metropolitan Plan, first approved by the municipal partners in2009, was just updated and re-approved in June 2012. The Plan providesa voluntary framework of shared commitments to work toward sustainablesolutions to issues of a regional scale and importance. 2|Page
  3. 3. Through our planning processes the leaders in our region have agreed thata “business as usual” approach to managing growth is simply NOTacceptable or sustainable. And so our challenge has been one ofplanning for regional growth from 1.3 million people today, to a forecasted3.0 million over the next 60 years, while still respecting and protecting theregion’s natural environment and water security.Slide 6) LUF map = whole ProvinceIn 2008, while our Partnership was mid-way in its planning process, theProvince of Alberta chose to re-enter the regional planning world with theapproval of a Provincial Land Use Framework.This Provincial Framework is important as it identifies seven largewatershed regions across Alberta, ours being the furthest south - the SouthSaskatchewan basin. On this map you can see the darker shaded outlineof our Calgary Metropolitan Plan area in the top-left portion of the largerSouth Saskatchewan basin.The Province is in the process of creating a regional plan for the entireSouth Saskatchewan basin, focusing on areas of Provincial interest, activityand policy. This regional plan will help guide the Province’s efforts atimproved cumulative effects management and Provincial resourcemanagement.In a few minutes I will tell you about an innovative water modelling exercisewe partnered in during 2010/2011 for the Bow River basin – within theCalgary Metropolitan Plan area. With those results and recommendationsin hand, we have recently been able to leverage and expand that modellinginto a comprehensive climate variability and river modelling researchinitiative for the entire South Saskatchewan basin – a testimony to the 3|Page
  4. 4. collaborative efforts of water managers, researchers, advocacy groups,Provincial departments and municipalities working together in our region.Slide 7) background Pic of children throwing rocksHere in the Calgary region we are fortunate to live in one of the mostbeautiful, and economically prosperous areas in the world.But our water system has limitations and is very much at risk in our rapidlygrowing, semi-arid region. The implications of those risks have come moresharply into focus through our planning efforts over the past decade.Water is our region’s most compelling issue and a major catalyst forchange. Approximately 45% of Alberta’s population lives in the SouthSaskatchewan River Basin, which has only 13% of Alberta’s water.Slide 8) Fade into Basin mapOf that, over 1.3 million people, almost 1 in 3 Albertans, live here in thegreater Calgary metropolitan area. That makes the Bow River basin themost densely populated river basin in Alberta !Put another way, the Bow River system consists of about 4% of the flowingwater in Alberta, yet supports over 40% of the population and a majority ofirrigated agricultural lands in the province.Over the past 150 years, water quality and supply in our region have beenimpacted by rapid urban expansion and rural subdivision, as well as 4|Page
  5. 5. intensive agriculture and resource development, most notably, oil and gasdevelopment and forestry activities in the foothills areas.Slide 9) Mean Annual Flow on the Bow RiverIn fact, mean annual flow rates in the Bow River at Calgary havedemonstrated a noticeable reduction over the past century.Surface water capacity limits have been reached or exceeded in our region,resulting in a Provincial moratorium being put in place on new water licencewithdrawals from the Bow and other sub-basins basins such as the Sheepand the Highwood Rivers.In the face of expected high levels of growth, a moratorium on new waterlicences and the onset of greater climate variability it is clear thatintegrative, long-term planning is essential.Slide 10) Context summarySo, to summarize our regional context:  the Calgary region is forecasted to grow from 1.3 million people today to as many as 3 million over the next 60 years;  and this in a watershed that has already closed its rivers to new water licenses;Our challenges then, are to agree on and implement a long-term growthmanagement plan for our region that accommodates growth whileprotecting the watershed and water resource.We are having to learn how to conserve water more effectively, and areneeding to create new mechanisms for sharing water equitably andefficiently across the region. 5|Page
  6. 6. Climate adaptability strategies and the Calgary Metropolitan PlanThe Calgary Metropolitan Plan is our collective roadmap to determininghow, and where, growth can take place and be efficiently serviced whileensuring that the essential capacities of our natural environment arerespected, enhanced and properly managed.The land use and mobility strategies embedded in our plan are all aboutaddressing the causes and implications of climate change – and they arenot unlike the proactive strategies you would find in most current strategicplanning approaches.Slide 11) Environmental elements to be protected in the region1 – Identifying and protecting the integrity of our region’s naturalsystems – its watershed, ecological systems and habitats, soils, air quality,wetlands, riparian zones and environmentally sensitive areasSlide 12) Strategically-arranged long-term settlement pattern, in a morecompact footprint, tied to regional servicing systems2 – Against that backdrop of areas “to be protected”, shaping asustainable future settlement pattern that can respect and intensifyexisting communities, accommodating the anticipated economic andpopulation growth in strategic locations that can be efficiently serviced byregional water, wastewater and transit systems,Slide 13) Greater variety of housing forms, mixed-use, walkability3 – Encouraging a more compact, walkable physical form in ourcommunities – promoting the intensification of existing communities andincreased densities, mixed-use, employment centres and walkability in new 6|Page
  7. 7. suburban areas. All of this serves to create closer proximity between ourdaily activities, creating shorter travelling distances and providing citizenswith more choices for walking, cycling and transit.Slide 14) Evolving regional transit system4 – Emphasizing region-wide bus and rail-based transit systems, builton successful local bus systems and a stronger transit culture at thecommunity level. Beyond its obvious role in providing a public service,transit has become one of the most basic organizing principles for thephysical design of a more environmentally responsible region. The outcomes of these four land use and mobility strategies should be to reduce the rate of growth in overall energy consumption, lessening the growth in emissions, pollution and waste, and supporting more environmentally responsible lifestyle and mobility choices for citizens and businesses across the region.Slide 15) Collaboration in “thinking like a region”5 – A fifth overarching strategy is to build regional approaches tocomplex issues and service delivery systems by creating regionalcollaboration and mechanisms for sharing water, processing wastewater,managing stormwater, providing transit, integrating research and analysisacross the region, building greater cooperation across stakeholders andgovernment agencies at a regional scale and developing fair andtransparent region-wide decision-making mechanismsBeyond these individual, though obviously interconnected strategies, theCalgary Metropolitan Plan is very explicit about how it ties access toregional potable water supplies directly to the achievement of the plan’s 7|Page
  8. 8. land use policies. Regional water is available only for sustainable landuses identified in the plan’s Land Use Concept and policies.While other forms of development, like expansive rural country-residentialsubdivision, are not prohibited in the plan, they are also not eligible toreceive regional water and wastewater services as they are not seen asbeing sufficiently compact patterns of development to support walkability,mixed-use development, transit services or the efficient delivery of regionalwater and waste-water services.Finally, the Plan provides a decision-making model that is, of necessity inour context of water license moratoriums, reflective of the arrangementsneeded to secure a water-sharing framework between those municipalitieswhich have, and those which don’t have, a secure long-term water supply.Since 2005, the Partnership has been developing an integrated frameworkfor delivering regional water and wastewater services to address ourprojected growth under the Plan.Currently, water and wastewater provision is addressed within eachmunicipality or, where they are lacking a secure, licensed water supplythemselves, through bilateral agreements with the City of Calgary.The scope of work being considered in our regional water frameworkincludes:  The development of technical servicing options, including regional or sub-regional pipelines and treatment plants evaluated on the basis of triple-bottom line criteria  A regional governance structure  Regional water licence agreements (to support sharing)  An equitable funding and cost allocation model for regional water  Integrated watershed stewardship actions; and 8|Page
  9. 9.  A 10 year infrastructure staging and capital investment plan aligned with the growth expectations contained in the Calgary Metropolitan PlanSlide 16) the word Benefits is highlightedIn our experience, regional systems just make sense. They are the mosteffective scale with which to deal with watershed protection. The also helpto manage water health and security risks, increase access to skilled waterfacility operators and maximize economies of scale.Our engineering consultants estimated that the Calgary Metropolitan Plancan deliver $400 million in water and wastewater infrastructure cost savingsover the life of the plan through a better coordinated regional approach, amore compact development footprint and a commitment to waterconservation.Slide 16) Benefits disappears and the word Challenges appearsWhile the benefits are clear, developing a regional system also comes withmany challenges, including:  Fears over loss of local municipal autonomy  The need for new infrastructure funding models that better align with regional scale planning, collaboration and longer time horizons  Developing water License agreements and setting water rates that are equitable, transparent and acceptable by all partners  Shifting from unsustainable land use patterns and development practices; and  The ongoing political will and time commitment that is required to develop regional solutions with multiple interests at the table. 9|Page
  10. 10. But perhaps the key challenge we face in our region is the question of theactual capacity of the Bow River to support growth.Bow River capacity and management must be clearly understood andaddressed by the Province of Alberta and all watershed stakeholders iflong-term plans for regional water and wastewater systems are to succeed.Given the magnitude of the water challenges in our region, we know that animproved regulatory framework for water servicing and conservation –including re-managing the flows in the Bow River – will be an essential partof our sustainable future.The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan and the Calgary Metropolitan Plancan play pivotal roles in the development and delivery of that regionalframework, together with other stakeholders in our basin, but much hingeson our sharing a more informed understanding of water, and ourmechanisms for managing and sharing it over time and under tryingconditions.Research in our Region to Better Understand Climate ChangeI would like to tell you about some of the important and very collaborativeresearch projects we have underway in our region, all focused on betterunderstanding climate change, our watershed and river managementopportunities and the cumulative impacts of changing land uses and humanactivities on the quality, volume, location and timing of water resources inthe region. 10 | P a g e
  11. 11. And let me say right up front that our Partnership is one of the more recentstakeholders in our region’s collaborative efforts to understand, care andadvocate for the region’s watershed and the river systems within it.Slide 17) BRBC LogoFor several decades now, a highly collaborative coalition of scientists,government staff, environmental advocacy groups, educational institutions,municipalities, citizens, land owners, agricultural groups and businesspeople have worked passionately together under the umbrella of the BowRiver Basin Council.This voluntary Council is our region’s appointed Watershed Policy andAdvisory council, and plays a pivotal role in gathering multiple interests andperspectives to develop credible information, shared understandings, waterquality targets and a broad range of strategies and communications toolsfor improving and protecting the waters of the Bow River Basin.Policies in the Calgary Metropolitan Plan support and build on the waterquality objectives from the Bow Basin Watershed Management Plan, as dothe efforts of Provincial departments.Building on these relationships and their history of collaboration, ourPartnership is energetically supporting and participating in some veryinnovative climate change-related research and modelling. Let me giveyou just a snapshot of some of this work, and you can contact our staffdirectly if you would like more information. 11 | P a g e
  12. 12. Slide 18) Bow River ProjectOver the past three years, a collaboration of some 20 organizations in ourregion created and funded a project to model re-managing the flows in theBow River to improve environmental outcomes and meet forecast needs ofwater users throughout the basin.Slide 19) The Bow is a Managed RiverThe Bow River, with 11 hydroelectric dams upstream of Calgary, isconsidered to be the most “managed” river in the Alberta, at least from theperspective of optimizing water releases to meet peak electricity demandsand revenue opportunities, particularly in the winter months.Slide 20) “History demonstrates flood . . “Understanding the very historical story captured in tree ring data,researchers from the University of Regina illustrated how futureflood/drought events could be far more severe than the more recent recordmight suggest.Then, using historical data from the past 67 years, the team forecastedsupply and demand under various future scenarios and modeled a numberof stream flow and storage approaches to determine whether managementbased on multiple user and environmental objectives might yield greateroverall benefits than the traditional approach.Slide 21) The Bow River Project at a GlanceThe project concluded that the Bow River system can accommodateenvironmental and other downstream users under forecast future scenarios,but only if it is managed collaboratively, serving the interests of many users 12 | P a g e
  13. 13. downstream rather than solely for maximizing revenue from powergeneration.This project alone has challenged and re-shaped our water managementconversation for the Bow River, the region’s primary water supply for thenext 2 million people – and, as I mentioned earlier, a river that has alreadybeen over-licensed and had a moratorium on new licences for 6 years now.Slide 22) The SSRB Basin is Extensive and diverse . .The Bow River project opened a lot of eyes, but it didn’t go far enough. In2012, the consortium received a grant for $1.6 million to expand the model,and the watershed area, to explore practical options for adapting to climatevariability and change strategies across the entire South SaskatchewanRiver Basin area. This is a two year project, ending in 2014.Slide 23) Climate Variability Scenarios . . .A foundational piece of research and climate variability modeling is beingdone through the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative at theUniversity of Regina.Their climate variability scenarios will create a number of precipitation andtemperature conditions, each generating a range of expected river flowconditions that can then be examined through the Bow River model,adapted to include the other sub-basins in the South Saskatchewan basin.The intention is to then test combinations of climate adaptation tools andapproaches to better understand the challenges we’ll face and our bestoptions for adaptation as a region. 13 | P a g e
  14. 14. Slide 24) UBBCES Cumulative Effects Study (2011)A final piece of applied research we have been involved in over the past 4years has been to develop a cumulative effects simulation model to help usbetter understand the cumulative impacts of land use changes andresource development practices on water quality and volume in ourwatershed.It is one thing to forecast climate change scenarios and translate thosemore extreme conditions into potential river flows to be managed but, in theend, we all appreciate that planning for water cannot be done apart fromplanning for the land use and development changes that will shape theevolving landscapes that tomorrow’s water will be impacted by.Slide 25) Key questions to understand cumulative effects impactsOur cumulative effects modeling – looking back 50 years and forward 50years – tests the basic questions:  Will there be enough water given the land use changes we expect ?  Will it be clean ?  What will happen to groundwater levels, and the wells that rely on them ?  Will ranching and farming still be viable in terms of access to water ?  Will our natural areas still be plentiful and functional ?The research created a Business as Usual scenario – what might a “moreof the same” development footprint look like in 50 years and what impactscould it have on changing water quality and volume ?Not surprisingly, as we grow from 1.3 million to 3 million people in ourregion, supported by the expansion of businesses and resourcedevelopment, the results don’t look all that encouraging. 14 | P a g e
  15. 15. Slide 26) Testing how “Best Practices” can have positive benefitsThe analysis then goes on to test the potential contribution that “BestPractices” could have on lessening the impacts of land use, economicactivity and individual behaviour on long-term water quality and volume.These “Best Practices” have to do with land use planning (using thestrategies in our Calgary Metropolitan Plan), resource developmentapproaches, agricultural practices, recreation and conservation efforts.Not surprisingly, the modeled results show that better planning and moreenvironmentally-responsible development and business practices canmake a significant contribution to protecting the region’s water quality andvolumes over time, while enhancing ecological system performance andenvironmental quality and amenity for the region’s growing population.Some of the complexity that lays before us will be in connecting the climatechange and river management modeling explicitly to the land use andcumulative effects modelling – building more integrative tools for ouranalysis and planning and comprehensive mechanisms for propercumulative effects monitoring and reporting.What makes the road ahead complicated for us is that adopting “BestPractices” in a meaningful way means that everyone – governments,industry, farmers, citizens – needs to commit to doing things differently –  changing our land use and development approaches  managing resource development on a more integrated basis  adapting our agricultural practices to have less impact on the environment  adopting environmentally-friendly policies and practices at all levels 15 | P a g e
  16. 16. In ClosingSlide 27) CRP / CMP imageWater is a fundamental starting point in our regional planning – it is ourbiggest constraint and our most compelling opportunity.We like to imagine the Calgary Metropolitan Region as a “living lab” forwrestling with the tough issues of water management, water sharing andregional infrastructure.The latest version of the Calgary Metropolitan Plan reflects the members’efforts to maintain a commitment to collaboration, efficiency and sharedresponsibility in managing the region’s most precious natural resource, itswater supply.In our region’s experience, we have found that it is voluntary collaborationthat creates the more innovative solutions to our most complex andcomplicated challenges, even in the face of established legal arrangementsthat would set us apart. I talking here of the institutional rigidities ofhistorical water licensing, infrastructure ownership and fundingarrangements, municipal boundaries and attitudes towards local autonomy,and limited financial tools to fund solutions at a regional scale.In our region, it has been the collaborative spirit and initiative of individualsfrom across all sectors and interests that have held-out the very bestpossibilities for addressing climate change and adaptation options in ourregion.And so our journey continues, together . . . 16 | P a g e