Rés-Alliance Project

Since 2016, The Rés-Alliance project of the Québec network of watershed organizations (ROBVQ) has brought together dozens of Quebec municipalities in a community of practice to strengthen their resilience to hydroclimatic changes.

The mission of the Québec network of watershed organizations (ROBVQ) consists in gathering Québec’s watershed organizations (Organismes de bassins versants [OBV]) to promote water management within the framework of integrated water management at the watershed level. Considering that climate change is likely to alter the province’s water patterns, the ROBVQ decided to launch this community of practice specifically for small and medium-size municipalities to build their adaptation capacity to the new climate realities affecting water resource management. From 2017 to 2019, leading communities in eight OBV territories completed concurrent processes to develop adaptation plans. This approach served as an example for other municipal organizations that subsequently joined the community of practice. To date, 34 communities have committed to the project and can draw inspiration from the approaches taken. Much of the material produced by the various communities, such as vulnerability assessments related to water issues specific to their jurisdictions or their action plans, has been made available to the general public.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Funded by the Fonds vert (green fund) as part of Action-Climat Québec, a program related to the 2013-2020 Action Plan on Climate Change, the Rés-Alliance initiative aimed to build the capacity of local communities with respect to the impacts of climate change on water patterns and resources. The two main issues identified by participating communities in the Rés-Alliance project are flooding and the protection of drinking water sources.

In order to support the municipalities as much as possible in this process, the ROBVQ sought the support of scientific experts specialized in climate change from a variety of sectors, including hydrology, community engagement, land-use planning, economy, etc. These resources formed a scientific intelligence committee that commented on the relevance of the various stages of the project but could also serve as a resource depending on the issues studied and discussed by the communities. The Ouranos climatology consortium was involved from the very first stages of the project’s design.

Of the different communities taking part in the project, eight were selected to complete full cycles of climate change adaptation planning, i.e., a community portrait, diagnosis and adaptation plan. The portraits were produced early in the project cycle, in 2017. They include a definition of the system under study, a social network analysis, as well as the identification of the system’s exposure and sensitivity factors and existing compensation measures.

Identifying Actions

To create the community of practice, the ROBVQ has identified three levels of participation; the first level is the leading communities, the second level is the OBVs and their members, and finally, the third is the casual participants.

The eight leading communities form the core of the project, completing a comprehensive approach to the development of climate change adaptation plans for their water resources. Because these plans were thematic, these communities targeted specific water management issues for vulnerability assessment. In most cases, water scarcity (drought) or excess (flooding) was the main issue, but some communities also targeted specific local issues, such as water quality and salmon resources in the Matapédia-Restigouche watershed. These communities have therefore produced a portrait of their territory with respect to a specific local issue, a diagnosis including an assessment of their current and future vulnerabilities taking into account the impacts of climate change, and finally, an adaptation plan that responds to the issues in their territory identified in the previous steps.


This planning approach has served as an example for the 20 other municipal organizations that have joined the community of practice. For example, the OBV Matapédia-Restigouche (OBVMR) was part of the leading communities that completed a climate change adaptation plan. This particular watershed system is affected by water quality degradation related to agricultural practices and urban stormwater management, which affects the Atlantic salmon’s habitat. The municipalities in the OBV’s management territory have therefore carried out a diagnostic that establishes the vulnerability of the water territory by portraying the impacts of current activities on the territory and the actions implemented to limit their negative effects. The vulnerability assessment was done by adding together exposure (land use), sensitivity (salmon habitat requirements), risks (urban sediment input) and adaptation (measures taken by communities to reduce risks). This assessment produced a probable scenario for the evolution of the issue based on several physical and human factors, with information derived from local knowledge and available regional documentation.

This first step then allowed us to determine the current and future vulnerability of aquatic habitats located in urban areas in order to develop three scenarios combining both human factors of land development and climate projections (2041-2070 and 2071-2100 timelines) i.e,. probable, possible and desired outcomes.

A formal action plan has not yet been published, but tools have been co-developed to promote sustainable cohabitation between salmon and populated areas, such as a sustainable water management policy framework, an implementation booklet, and modelling to prioritize urban drainage areas.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

This initiative helped raise awareness among municipalities of the impacts of certain land-use planning and water management decisions and develop a common understanding of the challenges and priorities in terms of action to support community resilience. In the end, 31 municipalities (local and regional), spread across 12 different administrative regions, as well as two organizations and one Aboriginal community formally committed to the project. We can see that seven of the eight leading communities are still active and engaged in the implementation of their adaptation plan. We also note an increased sensitivity and autonomy of local and regional actors in the area of adaptation. This approach is now proven and reproducible throughout the province, especially in rural or semi-urban municipalities, which is an added benefit.

The project has produced a large amount of material, much of which is available to the general public. In addition to specific documents, such as the adaptation plans of the “leading” communities, various communication tools, such as newsletters, video capsules, webinars, case studies, and even podcast episodes, have been produced. Some technical tools, namely assessment grids, were also published on the Rés-Alliance website. A flagship activity of the project was the Grand Forum of Resilient Communities (Grand Forum des communautés résilientes) in 2019, which offered different forms of presentations and an original programming format, combining traditional short presentations, hands-on workshops, panel discussions and open discussions. Most of the participating OBVs have published the documents stemming from their approach on their own websites, for example, the OBVMR.

Next Steps

After this first work phase, the most conclusive result is the engagement of communities. Citizens and civil society associations, local and regional municipalities, government and academic experts, and private companies all contributed to developing adaptation plans that reflect their regional realities, which benefit from the approval of community members. This co-constructed approach has allowed for the emergence of a common understanding and vision of the challenges faced by the communities and the priority courses of action to strengthen their resilience. Current work has shown that this approach has led to an increased use of scientific knowledge and climate data to support the choices related to adaptation strategies.

Work on the implementation of the adaptation plans is ongoing in the leading communities, and the next steps consist of monitoring, assessing, continuously adjusting and continuing the implementation process. It is expected that new communities will join the Rés-Alliance project to implement similar approaches in their territories.