CSA Community Water Standards – Cambridge, Ontario

In July 2022, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group), in collaboration with four Canadian municipalities including Cambridge, ON, developed the Municipal How-To Guide for CSA Community Water Standards to help municipalities build flood resilience. Municipalities across Canada are experiencing more extreme weather events including more intense and longer precipitation events, resulting in flooding of homes and businesses. To help municipalities lessen the financial burden of flood-related damage, build flood resilience, and protect their communities, the CSA Group created several community water standards including: CSA W204:19 Flood resilient design of new residential communities, CSA W210:21 Prioritization of flood risk in existing communities, and CSA W211:21 Management standard for stormwater systems. These standards are intended to be incorporated into regional and municipal planning documents and bylaws to provide consistency in best practices that address flood mitigation and resilience. Cambridge, Ontario assisted with the development of the how-to guide, providing their first-hand experience with recent flooding in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Using the How-to Guide framework, several planning documents were highlighted that could incorporate the water standards and complement efforts to build flood resilience in Cambridge.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Climate change is altering the intensity, frequency, and duration of precipitation events across Canada. As a result, communities are experiencing more flooding causing significant damage and financial burden to residences and businesses. Flooding and extreme weather events can also place a burden on a community’s stormwater infrastructure system. Other factors contributing to the increased financial burden of flooding including properties located in flood-prone areas, loss of permeable surfaces due to urbanization, and aging infrastructure.

Cambridge, Ontario, has a population of ~138,479 and is no stranger to chronic flooding as the city is located on the Grand River Watershed. Flooding often occurs during late spring or early fall due to active weather conditions. However, flooding can occur at any time of the year. A significant and rare flood event occurred in June 2017 due to short duration, high-intensity rainfall of over 100 m, creating extremely high-water levels and flooding across the Grand River Watershed.

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

Identifying Actions

Municipalities are on the frontlines of preparing for and mitigating flood risk, as well as recovering and rebuilding after a flood event occurs. As more extreme weather events and flooding occur due to climate change, municipalities, urban planners, and developers need robust and reliable tools to build flood resilience and protect their communities. To support these needs, CSA Group, with funding from Standards Council of Canada’s (SCC) “Standards to Support Resilient Infrastructure” program, developed a suite of water-related standards. The CSA Group standards were developed through a consensus process by a committee of volunteer subject matter experts. The first standard, CSA W204:19 was published in 2019, and was later complemented by CSA W210:21 and CSA W211:21 in 2021.

  • CSA W204:19 – Flood resilient design of new residential communities provides requirements and guidance on flood resilient design for new communities. This standard would support building inspectors, community designers, planners, developers, and home builders.
  • CSA W210:21 – Prioritization of flood risk in existing communities provides guidance to help prioritize where flood risk reduction activities could best serve communities. This standard applies to municipal and regional governments, Indigenous communities not subject to permafrost, and authorities in charge of managing and developing communities.
  • CSA W211:21 – Management standard for stormwater systems provides requirements and recommendations for the management of stormwater systems. This standard applies to people that own, manage, and operate stormwater systems.


While the CSA community water standards are useful as guiding frameworks, their benefits cannot be fully realized until they are integrated into municipal plans and policies. Municipalities requested detailed guidance on how to integrate the CSA Group standards, which is particularly important for small to medium sized municipalities with less capacity and technical expertise. To provide guidance for standard integration, CSA Group collaborated with Colwood, British Columbia, High River, Alberta, Cambridge, Ontario, and Lakeshore Ontario. The guide was further validated by 10+ communities from across Canada through a workshop on the draft guide. The collaborating municipalities shared experiences and materials to support the development of a robust Municipal How-to Guide for CSA Community Water Standards.

The How-to Guide outlines a three-step process:

  1. Assemble your toolbox. This step involves first identifying existing municipal strategic documents including regional policy documents, municipal long-range documents, development approvals and technical documents. This step also involves understanding the CSA Group water standards and how they can fit into various existing documents and policies.
  2. Identify the gaps. This step involves understanding the gaps in existing documents and policies to see where the standards can be integrated. The How-to Guide includes a series of questions related to the different planning documents or bylaws that direct a municipality towards either “basic” or “comprehensive” sample language that could be used in these documents that reference one or more standards.
  3. Develop policies and guidelines. This step involves integrating the standards and customizing language for the municipality to assist with the integration and/or development process.

The How-to Guide also provides other ideas to drive uptake of the standards outside of technical documents and bylaws. Examples include fast-tracking applications that use the standards, offering fee reductions on subdivision/development applications that abide by the standards, flood resilience performance measures, and requiring standards in all municipally funded proposals.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

The How-to Guide also provides examples of planning documents from each municipality that could integrate the standards. CSA Group helped Cambridge identify examples of documents where the water standards could be applied and integrated.

  • Regional Official Plan: CSA W204:19, CSA W210:21, CSA W211:21
  • GRCA Policies for the Administration of Development, Interference with Wetlands and Alterations to Shorelines and Watercourses Regulations: CSA W204:19, CSA W210:21, CSA W211:21
  • Cambridge Official Plan: CSA W204:19, CSA W210:21, CSA W211:21
  • City of Cambridge Stormwater Management Master Plan: CSA W204:19, CSA W210:21, CSA W211:21
  • City of Cambridge Stormwater Management Policies and Guidelines: CSA W204:19, CSA W210:21, CSA W211:21

This was an important exercise to identify where a standard could be applied as a minimum benchmark and where to focus future efforts to build flood resilience with standards.

Next Steps

Cambridge is currently updating their Engineering Standards and Development Manual and has referenced other CSA standards from the Municipal How-To Guide (CSA W200:18 Design of Bioretention Systems and CSA W201:18 Construction of Bioretention Systems) in the draft version. The How-To Guide has been a useful tool to provide Cambridge staff with guidance on how to use standards to address issues that arise, especially where standards have not been put in place already. The city will continue to evaluate the benefit of standards to support design expectations and efficiencies.


Link to Full Case Study 

Additional Resources: 

Additional Climate Information:  

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

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