Cities worldwide are facing increasing demands for funding, whether to improve critical infrastructure or to build more and expand due to growing populations.
Canada is one of the countries with the largest immigration population, and high migration trends continue today.
According to Statista’s “Immigration in Canada: Statistics & facts“, Canada receives around 500,000 new immigrants annually. On average, British Columbia, the country’s westernmost province, absorbs 20% of these new full-time residents annually.
“Growth has been a major challenge for us over the past decade,” said Jerry Dobrovolny, chief administrative officer of Metro Vancouver (Wilson, 2023).
The influx of migrants to the region is straining its infrastructure. To cope with the steady population increase, it must build more critical infrastructure such as water, sewer, transportation, housing, and other infrastructure.
“Immigration is our largest driver overall, in terms of our growth, both international as well as interprovincial migration,” he said, adding that aging infrastructure and the resilience of existing infrastructure are also key challenges (Wilson, 2023).
For example, robust and sufficient water and sewer infrastructure is critical to ensure an uninterrupted supply of water and sewer services to Vancouver’s 2.8 million residents. Additionally, more housing, related infrastructure, and utilities must be built to cater to the yearly influx of migrants.
Inflationary pressure, skills, and labor shortages remain challenges that could hamper the government’s ability to provide the needed infrastructure.
Gurjit Sangha, vice president of water and wastewater at WSP Canada Inc., hopes that migration can fill the skills and labor needed to build new infrastructure to accommodate growth.
The BIV article notes that more than half of water projects in Metro Vancouver are driven by growth, costing billions of dollars. More funding is also needed to upgrade wastewater infrastructure to meet government regulations.
According to the City of Vancouver, the city has a combined sewer system that merges sewer and stormwater in the same pipe. During heavy rains, these pipes can get swamped with water, and the combined rainwater and wastewater spill into rivers and the environment.
Newer cities like Surry and Coguitlam have built separate systems for wastewater and stormwater, allowing them to discharge storm or rainwater into watercourses. The city embarked on a project to expand sewer capacity and build a new green rainwater infrastructure to prevent spilling combined wastewater into rivers.
The article says the project is part of a series of infrastructure upgrades to support population growth along the Cambie Corridor.
Another route the city is looking into to improve infrastructure is redeveloping already existing or developed areas. As more areas undergo upgrades, new systems can be implemented to cope with demands. These new systems include green roofs and onsite rainwater reuse for irrigation or flush toilets.
Dobrovolny notes that water and wastewater infrastructure is usually buried or concealed from the public; hence, it is “out of sight,” people tend to forget about them when they work well, but they are as crucial as other infrastructures.
In Canada, 86% of drinking water comes from a plant regulated by a provincial agency, and municipalities own 96% of public utilities.
The country is also constructing underground pipelines at an accelerated pace. An average of 10,000 kilometers of underground pipes were installed in 2019 and 2020, compared with nearly 7000 kilometers per year from 2000 to 2018. While new pipes are being built, existing and old ones with remaining useful life keep deteriorating.
Around 1 in 5 kilometers of water, sewer, and stormwater pipes are at the end of their useful life, having been built before 1970, while those new underground pipes installed in 2020 have a useful life between 50 to 73 years. Because of their concealed or buried nature, it makes it challenging to know their conditions.
Statistics Canada notes that in 2020, the condition of 12% of the total length of pipes is unknown, a slight improvement from 18% in 2018. This data inventory improvement is due to the implementation of asset management practices.
At least four out of five urban municipalities with 30,000 or more residents had an asset management plan for their water infrastructure in 2020, compared with just over two-thirds in 2018, the article says.
Canada’s growing urban centers face aging infrastructure challenges, greater demand for water infrastructure to meet growing population needs, environmental standards, and climate resilience.
Adopting an asset management approach offers asset owners and managers a variety of benefits – a way to know the condition of their assets, make better decisions about budgets and prioritize projects that provide the most significant benefit and highest return on investments.
Wilson, C. (2023, March 17). Metro Vancouver facing civil infrastructure issues. BIV. Retrieved from https://biv.com/article/2023/03/metro-vancouver-facing-civil-infrastructure-issues
City launches sewer and green rainwater infrastructure upgrades for Cambie Corridor. (2023 May 26). City of Vancouver. Retrieved from https://vancouver.ca/news-calendar/city-launches-sewer-and-green-rainwater-infrastructure-upgrades-for-cambie-corridor.aspx
Canada’s Core Public Infrastructure Survey: Water Infrastructure, 2020. (2022, July 26). Statistics Canada. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/220726/dq220726a-eng.htm