Building Capacity and Resilience
Most Saskatchewan residents will experience climate change and its impacts within their home communities. Therefore adaptation at the community level will be essential for their long term sustainability. It is timely for communities to consider climate change in their planning and development activities especially when renewing, improving and expanding public infrastructure such as public transit, roads, and water and sewage systems.
Saskatchewan communities can expect to be impacted by temperature increases and an increase in the number and severity of extreme weather events – such as hail, thunderstorms, flooding and tornadoes. Droughts, particularly in southern Saskatchewan, may also be a challenge. Climate change will affect the provision of water, sewer, drainage, park and recreation facilities and services, and transportation systems.
Rural and Aboriginal communities are often more sensitive to climate change impacts than urban centres due to their more direct natural-resource dependency and lack of economic diversification. Some small communities may also have fewer resources for adaptation.
What You Should Know
- Saskatchewan's climate is expected to be:
- more variable and
- experience more frequent and more intense extreme events (e.g. heavy precipitation or drought).
- Precipitations patterns will change - likely wetter, earlier springs and drier summers
- Droughts will likely increase in intensity and frequency
- Shorter snow-cover seasons may mean less time and money are needed to deal with snow. A wild-card in this outlook is the risk of intense snowfalls and ice-storm events (check out the Winter Storms section in Extreme Events).
- Prairie cities may find existing water storageand drainage systems inadequate to handle projected changes in precipitation intensity and snowmelt.
- Increasing drought frequency and severity will require water efficiency initiatives. This is of particular concern in small communities as they are largely dependent on well water or smaller reservoirs.
- Climate change is accentuating the urban heat island effect that already makes cities warmer than rural areas. More frequent heat (and drought) events canlead to reduced air quality and place urban residents, vegetation and wildlife under extreme stress. For example, the City of Edmonton estimated the loss of approximately 23,000 trees to drought between 2002 and 2007.
- Shorter and warmer winters mean increased outdoor activity and longer seasons for parks and summer-time recreational activities but also could mean more pests and diseases.
- Longer growing seasons and higher temperatures mean improved tree growth, if water and other conditions are not limiting.
Responding to climate change at the community level will require the efforts of all communities and its citizens. Excellent resources are available to inform community officials, both elected and non-elected, and municipal planners and other staff about how to plan to adapt to climate change. Some of the available resources, outlined below, [click here to jump down] represent the efforts of government and non-government organizations including: the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), Natural Resources Canada and ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability (originally International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (http://www.iclei.org)
Here are some points to consider when making decisions about community planning to adapt to climate change:
- Understand how the climate is changing, especially with respect to extreme events. How will this impact your community?
- Understand where your community is vulnerable and what are the associated risks.
- Climate change mitigation and adaptation are not mutually exclusive.
- Planning for change and taking action is usually more cost-effective than reacting
- Planning for change is not new. Integrate climate change into existing planning efforts, both short and long term.
The Impacts on Aboriginal Communities:
- First Nations Elders have reported more frequent extreme weather events, deterioration in water quantity and quality, changes in species distributions, changes in plant life, and decreasing quality of animal pelts.
- Changes in the availability of moose, caribou, deer, fish and wild rice may increase dependence on non-traditional foods.
- Unsuitable snow and ice conditions may hamper travel to trap lines, hunting grounds and fishing areas.
- Determine if operations and planning are sensitive to climate change.
- Monitor and evaluate advanced technology options and determine which management practices may work best in a changing climate (e.g. increase infrastructure capacities to handle extremes).
- Implement sustainable resource practices that lead to improvements in water efficiency and energy conservation.
- Ensure emergency preparedness plans will effectively deal with extreme weather events such as destructive wind storms, heat waves, wildfire, intense rain storms and floods, and insect and pest problems.
- Encourage development of drought contingency plans. For example, the City of Regina has developed drought contingency plans, including water conservation programs and expansion of water treatment and delivery capacity.
- Investment may be needed in water supply infrastructure.
- Promote education and awareness in rural communities of potential climate change impacts.
- Consider the promotion of Aboriginal traditional knowledge to strengthen adaptive capacity in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.
- Work to ensure building codes are appropriate for the new emerging climate.
Adaptations in Communities:
Drought and Water Conservation
Adaptation is underway within communities to deal with issues such as drought and water conservation.
- The Saskatchewan government is providing a $50 rebate for the purchase of low-flush toilets. The program is expected to help residents replace 200,000 toilets over 4 years (2009-2013). A total of 15 million litres of water per day will be conserved and 20,000 tonnes of CO2 will be reduced over four years.
- The City of Regina has developed drought contingency plans, including water conservation programs and expansion of water treatment and delivery capacity. Infrastructure has also been developed for storm water retention. (check it out in our Success Stories section)
- Communities can promote xeriscaping by homeowners to reduce watering demands. Xeriscape means "water conservation through creative landscaping". A xeriscape landscape provides many benefits:
- Reduces outdoor watering requirement during the summer
- Looks better than the common turf landscape
- Provides tremendous colour, variety and beauty, even in winter
- Gives you more time to enjoy your yard because it needs less watering, mowing, fertilizing and weeding. Eg. City of Regina Xeriscaping guide.
Outlined below are sources of additional information of particular interest to elected officials and municipal planners involved in adapting to climate change:
1) Prairie Cities:
2) Adaptation by Communities (General)
3) Adapting Community Infrastructure - Engineering
- Cecil, B. et al (2005): Social Dimensions of the Impact of Climate Change on Water Supply and Use in the City of Regina; report prepared by the Social Dimensions of Climate Change Working Group for the Canadian Plains Research Center, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, 54p.
- City of Regina (no date): Benefits of Xeriscaping [accessed on March 16, 2010]
- Government of Canada (2010) Adapting to Climate Change: An Introduction for Canadian Municipalities, published by Natural Resources Canada, [accessed January 15, 2011]
- Government of Saskatchewan (2009): New Rebate Available for Low-flush Toilets, Saskatchewan Government News Release - January 16, 2009.
- Engineeers Canada, 2008. Adapting to Climate Change. Canada's First National Engineering Vulnerability Assessment of Public Infrastructure [accessed January 3, 2011]
- Federation of Canadian Municipalities (2009): Municipal Resources for Adapting to Climate Change. Partners for Climate Protection, 19 p. [accessed March 18, 2010]
- ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, 2010. Changing Climate, Changing Communities - Guide and Workbook for Municipal Climate Adaptation. [accessed December 1, 2010]
- Mehdi, Bano, 2006. Adapting to Climate Change: An Introduction for Canadian Municipalities. Canadian Climate Impacts and Adaptation Research Network (C-CIARN).
- Sauchyn, D. et al (2009): Saskatchewan's Natural Capital in a Changing Climate: An Assessment of Impacts and Adaptation. 162 pp.
- Wittrock, V, 2005. How Adaptable are PrairieCities to Climate Change? Current and Future Impacts and Adaptation Strategies. PARC Summary Document No. 05-03, 12 p. [accessed March 18, 2010]
- Wittrock, V., E.E. Wheaton, C.R.Beaulieu. 2001. Adaptability of Prairie Cities: The Role of Climate Current and Future Impacts and Adaptation Strategies. Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC), Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. SRC Publication No.1196-1E01.