Climate Change Impacts on Water and Wastewater Infrastructure at Akwesasne

In 2017, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation (OFNTSC) undertook a vulnerability and risk assessment on the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne water and wastewater (W/WW) infrastructure. The objectives of the project were to: 1) Build awareness of the Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee (PIEVC) Protocol as a risk management tool; 2) Identify infrastructure vulnerabilities to current and future severe weather; 3) Establish a risk profile for the Akwesasne’s W/WW infrastructure; and 4) provide recommendations regarding mitigating risks with the highest consequences to the assets, service, and community. The result of this project was the development the First Nations PIEVC (FN PIEVC) Toolkit and a training program, which is being used on infrastructure across First Nations in Canada.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) is a community of approximately 12,300 people (2016) distributed over an area of 11,720 acres and governed by MCA. The community comprises three districts: Kawehno:ke (Cornwall Island, Ontario), Kana:takon (St. Regis, Quebec) and Tsi Snaihne (Snye, Quebec). MCA’s unique climate can be characterized by many storm tracks that meet in the area and they have recently experience increased summer heat, humidity, and air quality issues. Drought has also been observed in the past and projected to occur more frequently based on IPCC AR5 RCP 8.54 data. Climate data was acquired from Canadian (Environment and Climate Change Canada) and American (NOAA) weather stations and Ontario Tornado Watch. Since 1970, observed trends include rising temperatures, more frequent hot days, longer growing seasons, less snowfall and more winter rain, reduced snowpack, and earlier ice and snowmelt resulting in earlier peak river flows. Many of the MCA’s infrastructure assets were built in the 1990’s and early 2000’s and will need replacement, undergo rehabilitation, or retrofit, or will be at an advanced stage of their service lives within the time horizon selected. The purposed of this project was to assess the vulnerability of water and wastewater (W/WW) infrastructure of the MCA and provide recommendations on possible adaptation measures to mitigate identified risks.

For additional climate information, look at the Resources section of this example (below). 

Identifying Actions

The Project Team was composed of key staff from the MCA – Technical Services and Environmental Services Departments and OFNTSC Staff. This small, but focused group of subject matter experts were supported by a Project Advisory Committee (PAC) from organizations that are knowledgeable or are interested in climate change impacts on public infrastructure. The strong technical, operational, and environmental expertise of the MCA staff, and their knowledge and experience as long-time residents of Akwesasne, was an essential and invaluable source of infrastructure and climate information to this project.

The project took place in two phases:

  1. Phase 1: Evaluating the climate change vulnerability of water and wastewater (W/WW) infrastructure of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA)
  2. Phase 2: Building capacity for Akwesasne and OFNTSC through the development of a First Nations PIEVC (FN PIEVC) Toolkit and Training Program

Four workshops were conducted for Phase 1. Using the Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee (PIEVC) Protocol as a framework, MCA staff first identified weather events that previously caused disruptions in the water or wastewater services or failures of assets. The Project Team then selected the infrastructure response criteria against which the infrastructure-climate interactions and risks would be evaluated. Summary risk results and detailed risk matrices were established that ranged from moderate, high, and extreme risks.


Adaptive and risk mitigation measures were identified for MCA’s water & wastewater infrastructure. The recommendations include:

  • Evaluating the financial constraints and resources needed to maintain the infrastructure in a state of good repair and to invest in a timely manner in the replacement of infrastructure when it reaches the end of its service life, which can effectively decrease the extreme risks by more than 25%.
  • Improving the weather alert system to support operational staff and emergency first responders.
  • Identifying risk mitigation or risk avoidance measures for strong to extreme wind events, such as securing asset components i.e. roofs, light structures, etc.
  • Install weather stations on Cornwall Island and in St. Regis to ensure relevant local data.
  • For the full list of recommendations, see the Full Report in the resources section below.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

In Phase 2, the First Nations Infrastructure Resilience Toolkit (FN-iRT) was developed by building on the PIEVC Protocol and ISO (31000 and 14090) standards, incorporating existing First Nations information data from the Asset Condition Reporting System (ACRS) and local and traditional knowledge on infrastructure and climate. Industry best practices for asset management planning that aligns ISO 5500x standard was also incorporated. Along with this toolkit, training material was developed, and two regional training and awareness workshops were delivered in Ontario to over 30 First Nations and four tribal councils.

Next Steps

Phase 3 of the project is in progress and includes the implementation of the First Nation’s Risk Assessment and Toolkit in other communities. This includes:

  • Capacity development through ten (3) day training workshops across Ontario reaching 80 First Nations and 10 Tribal Councils
  • Additional climate risk assessments in other First Nations
  • Toolkit improvements including climate data models, conformity with ISO standards, Asset Management Enhancement based on recent pilot projects


Link to Full Case Study

Additional Resources:

Additional Climate Information:

Using climate change projections enables better adaptation decisions, as it allows you to better understand how the climate may change. To learn how to choose, access, and understand climate data, visit’s Learning Zone.

For more information on variables that may be useful in work related to wastewater vulnerability assessents, visit and click “Explore by Variable”. Here you will find pertinent future climate projections related to extreme weather and drought.