Climate change impacts on water and wastewater infrastructure at Akwesasne

In 2015, Engineers Canada initiated discussions with the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation about the impacts of climate change on infrastructure in Indigenous communities. The intent was to incorporate climate considerations into First Nations asset management planning. The first phase of the study employed the PIEVC protocol to evaluate the vulnerability to climate change impacts in potable water and wastewater collection and treatment systems for Cornwall Island, Saint Regis and Snye. The risks assessed differed between the locations and systems evaluated, but largely included water-related climate change impacts such as ice storms, hail, snowfall and rain events, as well as tornadoes and strong winds. Of these, the hazard‒infrastructure interactions considered to pose “high” and “extreme” risks are projected to increase in the future (by the 2050s). Recommended adaptive and risk mitigation measures include maintaining high levels of operations staff, competencies and infrastructure conditions; reviewing land-use policies to avoid building in high-risk areas of the community; and emergency planning, such as implementing a weather alert system with public outreach. The second phase of this study led to the development of a PIEVC Protocol tailored to First Nations communities. This version of the protocol provides guidance on how to integrate traditional ecological knowledge (TEK); it is adapted to unique circumstances that impact Indigenous communities (e.g., smaller communities, remote locations, etc.).

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