Editors’ Note by Sandra Cook and Sarah Ezzio

The myth of abundant water continues to challenge our collective thinking about how, and even if, we plan to manage it. We also take water for granted in our cities and communities, and assume it will come out of our taps when we need it, flush our toilets, or be whisked away to the appropriate places when it rains. With a lingering drought currently affecting the Canadian Prairies, communities are experiencing firsthand what limited water feels like. Given our changing climate, I can’t help but optimistically wonder if this drought event is shifting our thinking toward more water-wise practices. However, are we shifting fast enough?

This issue of Plan Canada is in partnership with the Canadian Water Network.

This issue of Plan Canada highlights some great work and effort to plan for and manage our water resources wisely to support our communities, but will it be enough? When planning for and managing water resources, we hear about how we must integrate. What does integrate mean? In this issue, we learn that the Regional District of Nanaimo integrates three core services with climate action – drinking water, source water protection, and regional growth. We also learn that the City of Vancouver is using a OneWater vision for managing their grey and green infrastructure, and EPCOR in Edmonton is using a OneWater approach to bring together their water, wastewater, and stormwater systems planning. Finally, if we are to manage the health of our residents in our communities, integrating public health management and urban wastewater management may help to inform future pandemics. At the heart of integration is collaboration.

Collaboration is an easy term to use, but a difficult process to implement. Collaboration is highlighted as a key process of working towards building equitable, resilient, and sustainable water services and housing in our cities, which we learn more about in the article, ‘Housing, the Water Infrastructure That Services It, and the Changing Social Contract.’ The City of Vancouver also demonstrates the wide breadth through which its collaborative Healthy Waters plan was established, bringing together multiple jurisdictions and multi-stakeholders, including the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Bringing multiple stakeholders together also illuminates the importance of applying an equity lens when we bring community members together in support of more integrated water management. In this issue, we learn more about water equity in an article which shares insights from Quebec, and recognizes that drinking water is a fundamental human right. However, it also shares ongoing issues of water inequity in some of our communities, particularly through the situation of people experiencing homelessness. The need for urban planners and water managers to come together to deal with urgent issues like the housing, climate, and affordability crises demonstrates the need for building resilience in our built and natural systems.

Finally, this issue also teaches us that coupling natural systems within our built environment may, in fact, build resilience. The re-naturalization of the mouth of the Don River in Toronto showcases nature’s ability to mitigate floods. On the prairies, we learn that natural infrastructure is a cost effective and environmentally beneficial alternative to traditional grey infrastructure, and provides multiple services like stormwater management, wastewater treatment, water supply, flood protection, and drought resilience.

Water is integrated into our daily lives, although it is brilliantly invisible and is taken for granted far too often. Illuminating the urban water cycle in our everyday lives may lead to more resilient communities, but to do this, we need to bring urban, environmental, and water management planners together, which requires collaboration. Collaboration is a slow and hard process when there are a multitude of priorities. Sometimes, by going slow together though, you can go farther. Let’s collaborate in support of water-wise cities in Canada!

Sandra Cooke

Canadian Water Network (Guest Editor)

Sandra is the director of communities and climate at CWN. Prior to joining CWN, Sandra supported water management in the agriculture and municipal sectors. She came to CWN after 17 years as a watershed water manager with the Grand River Conservation Authority, where she implemented the watershed water management plan, chaired the Water Managers Working Group, led the Authority’s water quality program and championed the development of the watershed-wide wastewater optimization program. Sandra is acutely aware of how important working and collaborating with people is with respect to making positive change happen in the water community. Sandra holds an Honours Bachelor of Science from the University of Guelph and a Master of Science from the University of Alberta.

Sarah Ezzio RPP, MCIP

Plan Canada Editorial Committee

Sarah is a Registered Professional Planner with experience working in the private and public sectors on a wide range of development projects, planning studies, and long-range planning initiatives across Ontario. She is currently a development review planner with the City of Ottawa.