Meet the Water Optimists: New Canadian Leadership Group to Strengthen Municipal Water Management

Cross-country experts will put priorities into action for stormwater, wastewater management and clean drinking water initiatives

February 26, Toronto, ON – From submerged cars in Toronto to submerged homes in Calgary, water was seen as a major threat to Canadians in 2013. Now, a new Canadian group of water leaders is lending their expertise to manage the new normal of extreme and more frequent weather events and to look at water with opportunity. Canadian Water Network (CWN), one of Canada’s federally-supported Networks of Centres of Excellence, today introduced their Consortium Leadership Group (CLG), bringing together leading cross-country municipal water managers.

“Connecting municipal water managers with leading research will ensure that we are tackling key issues head on,” says Bernadette Conant, Executive Director of Canadian Water Network.  “The immediate participation of municipalities and utilities across the country, speaks to the need for this type of initiative. The Consortium Leadership Group’s goal is to address priority water management needs and help Canadians realize the importance of water management to our quality of living.”

The Consortium Leadership Group already boasts 12 organizations involved in municipal water management and is growing. The CLG includes Halifax Water, Toronto Water, York Region, Peel Region, Durham Region, Union Water Supply, Region of Waterloo, the City of Regina, EPCOR, Alberta Innovates Energy and Environment Solutions, the City of Calgary, and the Capital Region District (Victoria). Together, they will work to address national water management priorities for Canadian municipalities, utilities, regulators and corporations

To kick-off activity for the year, the CLG will focus on the following priorities:

  • Financing and full cost recovery for integrated water systems –Developing strategies to meet growing financial need and better support the true costs of ensuring safe water and healthy environments.
  • Dealing with Extreme Events: Public Expectations and Future Planning – Managing for the new normal of increased frequency of extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods.
  • Wastewater and Biosolids – Improving options for Canada to seize the opportunity to benefit from what we flush and rinse away.
  • Integrated Risk Management – Helping water managers identify, prioritize and manage water management issues and risks to prepare for future challenges.

“Canadian municipalities have been given a tremendous responsibility for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater management and while we’re optimistic, it has felt like a road less travelled,” says Carl Yates, General Manager, Halifax Water, and Consortium Leadership Group member. “With the strength of our Group, we will blaze a trail together to address priority municipal water improvements and innovations.”

The Canadian Municipal Water Consortium launched in 2009 and has worked closely with municipalities, industry, government and research teams to drive progress on municipal water management challenges. Now, a nation-wide group will actively come together to discuss, prioritize and implement key municipal research initiatives. Since 2009, successful projects have been executed from Halifax to Victoria.

In British Columbia, CWN-funded research examined a range of innovative stormwater management practices to help municipalities adapt to increased climate changes. Dr. Hans Schreier at the University of British Columbia and Dr. Jiri Marsalek from Environment Canada created tools to set infiltration targets, improve bylaws, detain sediments and reduce urban water pollution. These tools will help reduce costs, flood risks and improve urban stream ecosystems and they can also be applied to most municipalities in Canada.

Work conducted on lead service connections by a national team led by Dr. Michèle Prévost helped the City of Toronto strengthen its risk management strategy against lead in drinking water. Leveraging Dr. Prévost’s work, the City revised its plan to replace 65,000 lead service connections resulting in a more cost effective and efficient lead mitigation program.

The Consortium Leadership Group will release its first National Water Priorities Report in June 2014.

Since 2001, Canadian Water Network has brought together more than 180 partners, including industry, government and non-governmental organizations and 80 municipalities on projects. Specifically, 80 projects over the past 12 years have resulted in direct value to municipalities with CWN funding.

About the Canadian Municipal Water Consortium (CMWC)

Launched in 2009 by Canadian Water Network, the Canadian Municipal Water Consortium (CMWC) focuses on municipal water management priorities, and works to identify and articulate the implications of research results for decision-making and risk management. The CMWC brings together municipal water managers with industry and governments from local to national, to facilitate a truly collaborative approach to tackling water management challenges across Canada.

About Canadian Water Network (CWN)

Headquartered at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canadian Water Network ( was created in 2001 by the Networks of Centres of Excellence Program to connect international water researchers with decision-makers engaged in priority water management issues. Canadian Water Network works to unite the expertise of researchers, practitioners and implementers to respond to water challenges.