July 16, 2007

Engineers to evaluate climate change impact on water resources infrastructure

The city of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, in partnership with Engineers Canada, has selected Genivar and TetrES Consultants to conduct a pilot project on the vulnerability of water resources infrastructure to changes in climate conditions. The project is the second part of a three-phase national assessment of the impact of climate change on Canada's public infrastructure.

Genivar is a Canadian engineering and environmental consulting company, while TetrES provides a broad range of environmental consulting services to facilitate the planning, analysis, or regulation/approval of proposed developments.

The Phase II pilot project builds on a draft protocol developed in Phase I of the first National Engineering Vulnerability Assessment. The protocol is designed to evaluate the growing impact of changes in climate on the design and operation of water resource systems, buildings, roads and associated structures, and storm and wastewater systems.

Phase II will now evaluate the effectiveness of this protocol by using it in the water resources pilot project in Portage la Prairie. The community was selected because of its location on a floodplain and the size of its water resources system.

"We are pleased to be the first municipality to be chosen for such a study," said Portage la Prairie Mayor Ken Brennan said, adding, "The nature of our water infrastructure makes Portage la Prairie a suitable and representative location to evaluate the draft protocol for water resource systems in Canada."

The pilot project is being managed by the Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee (PIEVC). Working under the auspices of Engineers Canada, the Committee's mandate is to conduct a systematic examination of Canada's infrastructure in order to determine, and assign priority to, the types of infrastructure most vulnerable to climate change.

The third phase of the assessment will bring together the findings of all of the studies into a final report by the PIEVC; completion of this report is expected by March 2008.

The results of the National Engineering Assessment of the Vulnerability of Public Infrastructure to Climate Change will lead to the adjustment of design codes, standards and practices. This in turn will enable engineers to incorporate design elements which will help structures better absorb the negative effects and benefit from the positive effects of changes in climate.

PIEVC chair Darrel Danyluk, who is also past-president of Engineers Canada, explained that, "Canada's infrastructures face new challenges because historical climatic data is no longer representative of the conditions for which the systems were designed. Extreme weather events such as droughts and floods can have similar impacts nationwide.

"By understanding the resilience capacity of existing infrastructures and improving design codes and standards we will enhance our ability to cost-effectively improve them to deal with these extremes, hence enhancing the well-being of our communities," he said.

Co-funded by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and Engineers Canada, PIEVC has the participation of all three orders of government as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Engineers Canada (the business name of the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers) is the national organization of provincial and territorial associations responsible for regulating the practice of engineering in Canada; they license the country's more than 160,000 professional engineers.

More information is available from David Lapp at Engineers Canada, 613/232-2474, ext 240, E-mail david.lapp@engineerscanada.ca.

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