City of Barrie - Inflow Reduction Workshop

In response to ongoing stormwater management challenges and concerns, the City of Barrie completed its Climate Change Adaptation Strategy in March 2017, which provided the recommendation to increase the uptake of the City’s Disconnect to Protect Program. Stormwater is a large concern for the City, especially as extreme rainfall events continue to become more frequent and intense, and mid-winter snowmelts become more common place. The impacts of this increased rainfall are compounded by the fact many residents have downspouts or sump pump/foundation drains that are illegally connected to the sanitary system, which discharge directly into the Wastewater Treatment Facility and can cause sewage backup during extreme rainfalls. This case study provides an overview of the City’s Disconnect to Protect rebate program, which is an ongoing program led by the Source Water Protection group at the City that provides rebates to qualifying Barrie residents for disconnecting illegal downspout, sump pump, and foundation connections to the sanitary sewer system.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

This case study addresses the climatic risks and vulnerabilities related to stormwater management in the City of Barrie due to increasing frequency and intensity of heavy rain and more frequent mid-winter snow melt events. These impacts are expected to continue to intensify with climate change. As mentioned in the ‘Short Description’ section above, the City developed its Disconnect to Protect rebate program as a response to these impacts, which covers up to $70 for the resident to disconnect their downspouts, and 75% of the costs associated with residents disconnecting their foundation drain, redirecting an existing sump pump discharge, or capping an existing sanitary drain and installing a new sump pump with surface discharge. However, since the rebate program was launched, it has received no uptake. In order to improve the uptake of the incentives program, the City hosted a workshop with real estate agents, home inspectors, and plumbers in order to build partnerships for the communication and implementation of the program. The workshop also provided an opportunity for the City to glean insights into homeowners from the perspective of these individuals and organizations. The City then collected feedback from the workshop and prepared a report of recommendations on how the City can improve communications and uptake. In addition to the workshop, a communications plan was made for the Disconnect to Protect program, including media releases and updates to the City of Barrie website. New, less technical brochures were also created for the Inflow & Infiltration information page on the City’s website.

Identifying Actions

The following overarching objectives guided the direction of the overall workshop planning: increase the uptake of the City’s Disconnect to Protect rebate program; reduce inflow into the City’s sanitary sewer system; reduce sewage backup during extreme rainfall events; and reduce pollution loading to Kempenfelt Bay. Planning for the project began in March 2017, with a kickoff meeting to outline the preliminary project workplan, identify key audiences, and brainstorm communication approaches. It was decided that a workshop would be held in November 2017, for real-estate agents and home inspectors. Part of the workshop would be geared towards soliciting feedback from participants on why the program had received such little uptake to date. In order to better market the Disconnect to Protect program, the education and outreach materials will be targeted to homeowners that live in these areas. Facebook community pages were found for each of the sub divisions with increased inflow into the sanitary sewer system. Part of the communications plan for the project consisted of education and outreach tools geared towards these Facebook community pages. Workshop planning began in August 2017, and a Terms of Reference document was finalized in order to hire a third-party contractor to facilitate the workshop. In October, a meeting was held with Ascentia, the awarded contractor, to discuss the options for promotion of the workshop and to discuss the education and outreach initiatives in further detail. In the end, 20 individuals attended the workshop, with over 40 individuals on the waiting list. Attendees included home owners, real estate agents, associations, plumbers, and home inspectors.


Overall, there were many actors involved in the implementation of these workshops to solicit feedback and information to improve the Disconnect to Protect rebate program, including the City of Barrie’s Source Water Protection group, as well as numerous other City departments, including the City’s Infrastructure Planning group and Communications department.

Several recommendations for increasing uptake were suggested as a result of the workshop. These included recommendations pertaining to collaborative communication, and the need to utilize more creative web-based approaches for engaging the public. One suggested idea was to develop a cartoon video that shows the relationship between households, their sanitary sewer connections, and the health of Lake Simcoe. Another suggestion was to simplify the rebate program process, whereby residents simply have to agree to have their downspouts disconnected and the City would select from a list of contractors to do the work for residents for the price the City is able to pay. Several barriers may exist to this suggestion however, as each disconnection job may vary in price significantly based on various factors. Other suggestions included starting small – having inspectors only tackle downspout disconnections first, as inspectors would not be required to enter people’s homes in these cases. The downspout disconnections would allow for an open dialogue to be created with homeowners, where education could take place concerning sump pumps. Finally, a mandatory disconnection approach was also suggested, whereby citizens are required by law to disconnect their downspout or to disconnect their sump pumps from the sanitary sewer system.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

Several positive outcomes were achieved as a result of the project, including:

  • Improved partnerships: Inviting key external stakeholders, including plumbers, real estate agents, and home inspectors to the workshop helped the City improve partnerships with these individuals and organizations, which was an advantageous way of capitalizing on existing networks to disseminate the information.
  • New communications and design materials: Significant changes were made to the messaging of the City’s Disconnect to Protect program, including a name change, an overhaul of the City’s Inflow and Infiltration webpage, and a new, simplified instructional brochure. These changes aim to make the Disconnect to Protect program more appealing and easier to understand for residents and homeowners.
  • Progress on implementation: The improved marketing of the City’s Disconnect to Protect program was a recommendation from the City’s 2017 Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. By hosting the informational workshop and creating new marketing materials, the City is well underway in implementing this action. Although the City is currently in the process of developing an Implementation Plan for the 2017 Strategy, acting on some of the recommendations early will accelerate improvements to the City’s adaptive capacity to climate change.

The City of Barrie will be assessing the success of this project using both process and outcome-based indicators. In order to measure the progress of the project, the City will be assessing workshop participation. Outcomes of the project will be measured in two ways:

  • Assessment of Rebate Program Awareness: The City will track the number of inquiries received via phone and/or email from homeowners.
  • Assessment of Rebate Program Uptake: The City will measure the number of applications received.

Both of these indicators will be collected by the Rebate Program Coordinator on a bi-monthly basis.

Some challenges that arose during the planning of the workshop include lack of public interest, due to a general aversion to the nature of the topic, as well as other competing events happening at the same time.

Next Steps

The project wrapped up with the completion of the workshop, and design of the communication materials. The next steps for the City will be to market the rebate program on the City’s various social media channels and at various public events. Moreover, the City will also be receiving a workshop report from the facilitator that includes recommendations on how the City can improve participation in the rebate program. This information will be considered when moving forward with the rebate program, and how it will be altered or communicated.


Link to Full Case Study

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 stormwater and wastewater management, visit and click “Explore by Variable”. Here you will find pertinent future climate projections related to:

  1. Historic and climate change scaled IDF data
  2. Total precipitation
  3. Maximum 1-day total precipitation
  4. Wet days (>1mm, >10mm, >20mm)