The following excerpt, “Blue City – What does the water sustainable city of the future look like?”, by Kirk Stinchcombe, Louise Brennan, and Jenn Willoughby is from WaterCanada Magazine, March/April 2014 issue
… Embedded in the phrase Water Sustainable City of the Near Future are four concepts:
• By city we mean a municipal environment of any size. We tend to think specifically of Canadian cities, but many of the insights would apply anywhere.
• By sustainable, we mean the capacity to endure. This includes biological systems that remain diverse and productive over time. It also implies the potential for long-term maintenance of human well-being. We think broadly and include ecological, community, and financial aspects.
• By water, we mean drinking water, storm water and waste water. We think of water quality, quantity, and availability.
• By near future, we think along variable time frames.
Some aspects of water sustainability are attainable within
as few as five years. Changes that are more difficult could
take perhaps 20 years to realize. Still others, such as
replacement of major infrastructure, may take more time…
Eight Blue City Case Studies.
Blue City is an attainable place. Many of its exemplary
characteristics are found in real cities across Canada and
around the world. The full report contains eight case
studies that describe various aspects of a water sustainable
1. Building Design (City of Victoria, British Columbia)
The Atrium Building is a seven-storey, 204,000-squarefoot retail and office building at the edge of downtown Victoria. It is a multi-award winning project with acclaimed stormwater innovations.
2. Water in Decision-Making (Okotoks, Alberta)
Okotoks is a town of 24,511, located just south of
Calgary. The town has an innovative relationship
between bylaws and incentive programs to encourage continuous improvements in water conservation.
3. Blue Built Program (Guelph, Ontario)
The City of Guelph administers a certification program that provides rebates for new homes that meet an approved set of water-efficient standards, ranging from faucet aerators to rainwater harvesting systems.
4. Conservation-Oriented Pricing (Seattle)
Seattle Public Utilities has charged rates based on
volume for decades and has been fully metered since
1920. In 1989, it was among the first in North America to introduce seasonal surcharges.
5. Developer Incentives (Chicago)
The Green Permit Program offers progressive developers an expedited permitting process and other incentives in exchange for incorporating items from a “Green Menu” of strategies and technologies in their projects.
6. Performance-Based Regulation (Edmonton, Alberta)
Since 2002, the City of Edmonton and EPCOR Water Services have operated according to performance based regulations, a mechanism that prevents overspending, defines expectations, and lays out
penalties in the case of under performance.
7. Utility Performance Measurement (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Halifax Water is the first regulated water, wastewater, and stormwater utility in Canada. Its pressure and
leakage management program has resulted in annual
savings in operating costs of $600,000.
8. Source Substitution (Australia)
Pimpama-Coomera is a large greenfield development located on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.
It has a dedicated Class A+ recycled water treatment plant and entirely separate pipe system to supply homes and businesses in the area with water suitable
for toilet flushing and garden irrigation…
Blue City offers a vision of a place where water is visible and valued, recognized as integral to the community’s economic, social, and environmental well-being…
Areas for Action
The water leaders interviewed in Blue City identified four priority areas for action:
1 Financial Responsibility:
Sustainable utilities focus on levels of service, develop asset management plans, and embrace life-cycle costing.
In pricing services, utilities aim for full-cost recovery and structure their rates to influence behaviours.
2 Progressive Regulation and Governance:
Progressive regulations and incentivebased programs complement each other in driving performance and ultimately achieving water
sustainability goals. A well-designed utility governance structure facilitates information flow and achieves resource efficiencies.
3 Customer-Oriented Information:
Utilities measure their performance. This facilitates transparent reporting and informs planning processes. In a sustainable
city, information is shared, integrated, and audience-specific.
4 Cutting-Edge Technology:
Transformative utilities figure out how to incorporate technology
that makes source separation economically viable. Sustainable
cities have infrastructure that maintains the natural environment
and minimizes the impact of activities on native ecosystems…
The idea at the heart of the report is that the decisions
we make today will determine what the city looks like in
five, 10, and even 100 years. With a shared vision in place, taking small, frequent steps is possible. Together, we can navigate diversity and complexity, and ultimately move a real city toward a better future.
Kirk Stinchcombe and Louise Brennan are Sustainability Specialists at Econics. Jenn Willoughby is Manager of Strategic Marketing and Outreach at Canadian Water Network.
The full version can be found online at http://www.blue-economy.ca.