Region preparing water systems for climate change challenges2 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
By Scott Cressman
Our community needs clean drinking water and reliable wastewater treatment, but a changing climate will create new challenges for those critical services. The Region is working now to prepare for those challenges.
Hotter temperatures, more intense rain, less snow and higher winds are a few of the changes projected for our area in the coming decades. The Region’s Water Services division is analyzing those impacts now, so we can prepare our systems.
“We’re asking ‘how is the climate changing and what are we doing about it?’” explained Kaoru Yajima, senior engineer with Water Services.
Region staff are using predictions from the University of Waterloo’s Climate Institute that show our local weather getting warmer, wetter and more extreme in the coming decades.
“We need to be ready for what the climate change experts are predicting, to ensure we have reliable water and wastewater services we can all count on,” Yajima said.
Climate change considerations can influence how Water Services builds new infrastructure and operates its facilities. With good monitoring and planning, we can prepare for changes we’ve never seen before. Ways we are adapting now include:
- Building new infrastructure above the flood line to be ready for more flooding
- Adopting strategies to manage peak flows in our wastewater treatment plants due to increased rainfall
- Proactive sewer pipe inspections and repairs to stop leaks due to increased rainfall
These are examples of an Adaptation approach. Another approach is Mitigation, which means reducing the greenhouse gases we release into the atmosphere. Water Services is doing this, too. In the last few years, we’ve reduced our carbon footprint by upgrading our wastewater treatment facilities to capture biogas and use it to power our facilities. Another new cutting-edge technology in wastewater plants decreases our energy and physical footprint.
Water conservation is also a key to keeping our system sustainable. Everyone can do their part to use water wisely and efficiently! High water demand means the Region must build expensive new infrastructure, and use more energy to clean and pump that water.
Climate change is a global challenge with local impacts. The Region is taking steps to understand how changing weather will impact our critical water services. And we are taking action now to be ready.
Sidebar or footer: In June 2021, the Region of Waterloo Regional Council endorsed the TransformWR strategy, a region-wide climate action mitigation plan, aimed at reducing GHG emissions.