Integrated water management

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Introduction

Historic approaches to stormwater management – which initially focused on conveyanceMovement of water from one location to another., followed by flood control and eventually some aspects of water quality – failed to address the full range of water resources related issues associated with stormwater runoffThat potion of the water precipitated onto a catchment area, which flows as surface discharge from the catchment area past a specified point.Water from rain, snow melt, or irrigation that flows over the land surface.. A holistic, integrated approach to stormwater planning and management is required to adequately deal with changes to the volume, rate and timing of runoffThat potion of the water precipitated onto a catchment area, which flows as surface discharge from the catchment area past a specified point.Water from rain, snow melt, or irrigation that flows over the land surface., and to design source, conveyance and end-of-pipe controls capable of satisfying groundwater rechargeIncreases in groundwater storage by natural conditions or by human activity. See also artificial rechargeThe inflow of surface water to a groundwater reservoir or aquifer., water quality and variable environmental flow targets. To achieve this, a robust, interdisciplinary team consisting of infrastructure, water resources engineers, geomorphologists, hydrogeologists, ecologists, fisheries biologists, landscape architects and other disciplines must come together in order to define key targets and resource management goals underpinning the one water approach.

Collaboration leads to innovation

"An integrated design process (IDP) involves a holistic approach to high performance building design and construction. It relies upon every member of the project team sharing a vision of sustainability, and working collaboratively to implement sustainability goals. This process enables the team to optimize systems, reduce operating and maintenance costs and minimize the need for incremental capital. IDP has been shown to produce more significant results than investing in capital equipment upgrades at later stages."[1]

The Ryerson Urban Water group has developed a free modeling tool for neighbourhood scale integrated water resources evaluation. View the tool at http://iwret.ryerson.ca/.

The one water approach

Changes in the relative magnitude of various hydrologic pathways resulting from land use and water management decisions. (Image credit: Healthy Waterways)

The one water approach is predicated on the fact that drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems share intrinsic connections, and that none of these systems can be managed in isolation from one another. The ultimate goal of the one water approach is to mimic the natural hydrologic cycleThe circulation of water from the atmosphere to the earth and back, through precipitation, runoff, infiltration, groundwater flow and evapotranspiration.. The figure to the right illustrates how different hydrologic components are altered as progressive urbanizationThe changing of land cover and land uses from rural to urban; the growth of urban settlements. occurs.

Evapotranspiration and infiltration are the dominant pathways within the natural hydrologic cycleThe circulation of water from the atmosphere to the earth and back, through precipitation, runoff, infiltration, groundwater flow and evapotranspiration.. As a result, natural conditions produce relatively little runoffThat potion of the water precipitated onto a catchment area, which flows as surface discharge from the catchment area past a specified point.Water from rain, snow melt, or irrigation that flows over the land surface.. In urban environments, a rise in imperviousA hard surface area (e.g., road, parking area or rooftop) that prevents or retards the infiltration of water into the soil. surfaces coupled with a net loss of vegetation (interceptionThe interception, storage and eventual evaporation of rainfall from vegetation canopies. storage and evapotranspirationThe quantity of water transpired (given off). Retained in plant tissues, and evaporated from plant tissues and surrounding soil surfaces. Quantitatively it is usually expressed in terms of depth of water per unit area during a specified period. e.g. mm/dayThe combined loss of water to the atmosphere from land and water surfaces by evaporation and from plants by transpiration.) and the implementation of a dense storm sewer network significantly reduces evapotranspirationThe quantity of water transpired (given off). Retained in plant tissues, and evaporated from plant tissues and surrounding soil surfaces. Quantitatively it is usually expressed in terms of depth of water per unit area during a specified period. e.g. mm/dayThe combined loss of water to the atmosphere from land and water surfaces by evaporation and from plants by transpiration. and infiltration processes and produce large amounts of urban runoffThat potion of the water precipitated onto a catchment area, which flows as surface discharge from the catchment area past a specified point.Water from rain, snow melt, or irrigation that flows over the land surface. in much shorter timeframes. Within the urban water balanceThe accounting of inflow and outflow of water in a system according to the components of the hydrologic cycle., piped and/or pumped potable water and wastewater discharges are also represented within the cycle to the right.

Water resource management in Ontario

In Ontario, water management and planning is consistent with municipal land-use planning and is largely done as part of the master planning, watershed planning, and environmental planning process, which are the responsibilities of municipalities and conservation authorities. In order to successfully carry out integrated water management in Ontario, the planning process should be undertaken through a collaborative, interdisciplinary process. This will maximize the likelihood that management plans will satisfy the specific needs of the individual parties who are responsible for providing both water services and water management.

Successful application of the One Water approach requires that management and planning optimization for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems all be carried out at the appropriate scale. For the purposes of safeguarding life and property against flooding and degraded water quality, and in order to meet the needs of biotic life support systems, the appropriate scale for management is at the watershed level. Since watershed boundaries transcend municipal boundaries, a spirit of collaboration between neighboring municipalities is also required. In order to optimize the aforementioned systems, adequate planning surrounding other components is also required.

Key components include:

  • Long-term infrastructure master plans
  • Asset management plans (for DW, WW and SW infrastructure)
  • Financial plans
  • Water conservationReduction in applied water due to more efficient water use such as implementation of Urban Best Management Practices or Agricultural Efficient Water Management Practices. The extent to which these actions actually create a savings in water supply depends on how they affect net water use and depletion. plans
  • Risk assessments for both existing and anticipated future risks (including the growing risks posed by climate change), and
  • Strategies to maintain and improve water management services.

  1. Natural Resources Canada. The integrated design process. http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/efficiency/buildings/eenb/integrated-design-process/4047. Accessed September 12, 2017.