Climate Change Impacts on Yellow Quill First Nation Infrastructure

In 2019, Stantec Consulting Ltd. (Stantec) completed a Climate Risk Assessment (CRA) of the Yellow Quill First Nation Infrastructure using the First Nation Infrastructure Resilience Toolkit (FN-IRT) to investigate the community’s vulnerability to more frequent flooding brought by the effects of climate change. Yellow Quill is a Saulteaux First Nation community located approximately 300 km east of Saskatoon and 12 km east of Rose Valley, Saskatchewan. The Yellow Quill Community experienced multiple flooding events in 2005 and 2006, leading the community to complete extensive drainage improvements to mitigate further flooding. Yellow Quill continues to be exposed to flooding risks during annual spring melt. Rapid snow melt exacerbated by frozen ground and spring rain increases the chances of floods. Community infrastructure failure could impact emergency response systems, insurance and legal considerations, policy considerations, social effects, environmental effects, and fiscal impacts. The objectives of the Climate Risk Assessment were to:

  • Identify Yellow Quill infrastructure vulnerabilities to current and future severe weather events associated with the impacts of climate change.
  • Establish a climate risk profile for the infrastructure selected by the community.
  • Provide adaptation strategies and recommendations for mitigating climate risks with the highest consequences and impacts to the community’s infrastructure assets.

The project was made possible through the federal government’s First Nations Adapt Program grant.

Understanding and Assessing Impact

The climate events selected by the Project Team and community members for the CRA include:

  • Extreme cold temperatures (>-30°C)
  • Heat Waves
  • Winter Storms
  • Tornadoes
  • Summer Storms: High wind events, Short Duration Intense Rainfall, and Golf-ball sized Hail
  • Flooding

Stantec completed a climate profile for the Yellow Quill First Nation lands using Canadian Gridded Data (CANGRD). Future climate projections are based on the IPCC RCP 8.5 scenario. The average change in mean annual summer temperature is expected to increase by an estimated 3.5°C in the 2050s (2041 to 2070) to 5.9°C in the 2080s (2071 to 2100). Mean annual winter temperatures are also expected to increase by an estimated 3.7°C in the 2050s to 6.2°C in the 2080s above the 1981-2010 baseline due to climate change. Average annual precipitation in the prairies is highly variable due to influences from the El Niño Southern Oscillation and the Pacific-North American circulation, which can cause variable rainfall from one year to the next and intermittent droughts. In Yellow Quill, the annual precipitation is expected to increase in the future. The total summer and winter precipitation is expected to decrease, while the spring and fall precipitation is predicted to increase. There will be no change or a slight decrease in windspeeds at Yellow Quill. Given the warming climate and the expectation of increased extreme weather events, strong wind events associated with summer storms are expected to increase in frequency under future climate. Many of the infrastructure assets in Yellow Quill were constructed in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. These climate impacts will require Yellow Quill First Nation to develop adaptation actions to create more resilient community infrastructure.

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

Identifying Actions

Information on the condition of the infrastructure considered in this climate risk assessment was retrieved from the 2016 and 2017 Asset Conditions Reporting System reports.

Four FN-IRT workshops were completed that focused on identifying the Yellow Quill infrastructure to be assessed for current and future climate risks. During the first two workshops, the Project Team selected four categories of infrastructure to assess:

  • Community Buildings (School, Health Centre, Head Start Building, Fire Hall)
  • Water and Wastewater Treatment Systems (Water Treatment Plant, Raw water intake building, booster station, sewage pump station, lagoons)
  • Housing (Residential housing subdivision, Residencies on cisterns, Farms)
  • Drainage (Culverts)

These workshops also helped define the inputs needed for the climate risk assessment. These included:

  • Discussion of weather-related impacts on infrastructure and the completion and development of a severity of impacts scale.
  • Review and agreement of proposed probability scale for climate events.
  • Review/selection of climate data (past climate events and impacts on infrastructure) and introduction to climate thresholds.
  • Introduction of infrastructure performance considerations (structural, operational, functional) as they relate to the impacts of current and future climate events.
  • Introduction of the FN-IRT climate vulnerability assessment process and the Risk Matrix worksheet.
  • Workshops 3 and 4 engaged the community. The project team and workshop participants further reviewed climate events that have caused infrastructure and operations disruptions and/or failures. Thresholds, or intensity level of the climate events that would possibly cause damage or service disruptions should a component of the infrastructure be adversely affected by the event, were also defined.


FN-IRT Climate Risk Assessment (CRA) Process

Only infrastructure assets that were determined to be exposed or interact with select climate events were selected for the analysis. Infrastructure was evaluated against the impact of the climate event and assigned a severity score (1 to 5) using the Yellow Quill Severity Impacts scale. Severity scores were assigned for three types of possible infrastructure responses: structural integrity, functional response, and operations response.

Once the severity of the impact of the climate event was determined for each performance response, the risk to the infrastructure component was determined using the following formula: Risk = Severity of Impacts x Probability of Occurrence of Climate Event

The severity scale uses between zero (0) and five (5), with 0 being defined as having no effect on the infrastructure and 5 being catastrophic.

Climate Risk Assessment
Within each category (community buildings, waste and water systems, housing and roads and drainage), the project team selected specific infrastructure assets for the assessment; i.e., each of the infrastructure assets considered were further divided into components or systems that comprise the infrastructure. The climate risk assessment then evaluated the severity of the impacts on each component of the infrastructure to the selected climate events.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

Key highlights from the risk assessment include the following:

1. No extreme risks were identified under the current climate, and only one was found under future climate projections, related to the functional risk of third-party services (power/hydro). However, if infrastructure is not replaced at the end of the asset’s service life, the number of extreme risks increases to 7 (700% increase).

2. Tornadoes were found to broadly impact all infrastructure studied. While the occurrence of a tornado under the current climate was low (probability score of 2), the occurrence of a tornado under future climate is likely much higher (probability score of 4).

3. Winds (gusts over 80 km/h) and winds associated with summer storms (microbursts/straight-line winds) were found to result in moderate structural, functional and operational risks, mostly related to building roof structures and the grounds around buildings.

4. Winds were a significant risk to third-party services (power/electrical supply and telecommunications). This substantiates previously known impacts on the community associated with prolonged power outages.

5. More extreme precipitation events were a high risk under future climate conditions, due to the increased possibility of local flooding. House foundations and cisterns for houses not on municipal services were the primary infrastructure at risk.

Next Steps

The climate adaptation and resilience strategies developed during the Yellow Quill FN-IRT climate risk assessment are the first steps toward reducing climate-related risks to Yellow Quill infrastructure. The findings from the risk assessment will inform Yellow Quill’s Asset Management Plan, specifically the levels of service, prioritization and investment, life cycle, and risk management sections.


Link to Full Case Study

Additional Climate Information: 

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

Visit and click “Explore by Variable” for future climate projections related to temperature and precipitation, which can be used to inform adaptation planning.