_ (press release) _ The Water Environment Strategy is a multi-decade plan to manage and protect Ottawa’s water resources. The City Environment Committee was asked to approve the Water Environment Strategy report today. However, the Strategy lacks ambition on the critical issue of green infrastructure.
“We welcome this Strategy because it is long overdue and is the final major piece of the historic Ottawa River Action Plan commitment,” says Graham Saul, Executive Director of Ecology Ottawa. “But it also falls short in that it doesn’t truly embrace a bold new vision for water management that is based on green infrastructure.”
The Water Environment Strategy is a comprehensive water protection strategy for the City of Ottawa. A project within the Ottawa River Action Plan, the Water Environment Strategy looks to address the long-term stormwater, wetland and groundwater issues that weren’t covered by ORAP.
ORAP’s signature project is the set of large stormwater storage tunnels in the downtown core, costed at over $150 million and designed to hold up to 43,000 cubic meters of water. These twin tunnels are intended to store excess stormwater during periods of heavy rain, in order to reduce the amount of raw sewage and stormwater that flows into the Ottawa River.
But the tunnels can only address one aspect of Ottawa’s drinking water, stormwater and wastewater needs. With climate change increasing the incidence of 100 year storms and with floods a more and more common occurrence within Ottawa, the Water Environment Strategy is intended to look ahead in creating long-term plans to manage the rest.
Ecology Ottawa is glad to see this comprehensive and integrated approach to understanding and studying our watersheds. The promised cooperation between City departments and local stakeholders is a positive move forward in addressing the myriad issues faced by Ottawa’s 4,500 km of watercourses. The climate scenarios planning for floodplains, updated municipal drain mapping and new public outreach plan will be particularly welcome initiatives.
“However, the Water Environment Strategy is still a missed opportunity to improve Ottawa’s urban stormwater outlook,” says Saul. “The Strategy is comprehensive in that it tackles many aspects of water management, but not ambitious in that it still seeks to pilot green infrastructure projects when these are proven technologies now in use in many progressive cities across North America.”
In Ottawa, green infrastructure remains an experimentation, when it should be integrated into the fabric of municipal planning and development.