SIRP – Edmonton’s Stormwater Integrated Resource Plan: EPCOR

As the challenge of managing the impacts of major storm events becomes ever greater, EPCOR’s Stormwater Integrated Resource Plan (SIRP) offers a progressive example to other Canadian communities on preparedness, resilience and response to mitigate both disaster and inconvenience, as well as costs. Through their SIRP, EPCOR demonstrated that a transparently evidence-based program that both saves money, and increases community engagement and support can be successfully implemented.

By Tabatha Southey

The Stormwater Integrated Resource Plan (SIRP) was launched as one of the core commitments made by the Alberta-based utility company, EPCOR, a municipally owned corporation. It was undertaken as Drainage services transitioned from being a City of Edmonton department to becoming a part of EPCOR, with the entire water cycle ultimately being managed by the company.

A dedicated team was selected from EPCOR’s talent base to work full time on the SIRP project. They focused exclusively on the important task at hand until the strategy was completed and approved by City of Edmonton City Council.

Recognizing that intense storms can cause urban flooding that puts people, essential services and infrastructure at risk, EPCOR set out to work with all stakeholders––citizens, businesses, industry and the City of Edmonton—to develop a SIRP.

Flooding due to extreme weather events is becoming ever more common and severe, and virtually everyone is affected. A cooperative approach not only made sense, it leveraged the integrated resource planning techniques that EPCOR had been using to manage water infrastructure for the past twenty years.

The team began by reaching out to other utilities around the globe that were also working on flood mitigation and risk prioritization models. At the same time, an extensive literature search was undertaken. Through this review the scope of flood mitigation techniques was expanded beyond the traditional grey infrastructure aspects to include techniques such as: green infrastructure, the increased use of sensor technologies, and real time monitoring and response to limit flooding impacts – all of which were ultimately incorporated into the SIRP.

External parties who shared their work on the risk categories and whose industry sector workshops allowed EPCOR’s team to capture the impacts of flooding across multiple industry sectors within Edmonton contributed, including the City of Edmonton Climate Change Adaptation project team.  As well, through the Intact Center on Climate Adaptation, EPCOR was able to leverage and participate in the numerous flood mitigation initiatives that this group had underway. Through their contacts, the team was able to make connections with many of the industry leaders in this space

A series of partnership initiatives, including with the Canadian Water Network and Insurance Bureau of Canada, allowed EPCOR to participate in a number of cross-sector industry discussions. As well, it allowed their project and utility to be considered as a case study to validate the suitability of insurance flood modelling to support engineering decisions at the municipal level.

Ultimately, through the investment themes of SLOW, MOVE, SECURE, PREDICT and RESPOND, the project demonstrated a way forward, removing perceived obstacles to using green infrastructure and private property investment as solutions to mitigate flooding risks. Five key deliverables and reports were presented to City Council and all are available in the public domain for sharing with other communities.

The project was conducted with a focus on being fully transparent in the decision processes, and sharing with other communities has been and remains a priority. While the biggest impact to date had been the development of a plan with an estimated cost of $1.6 billion over 20 years, it was compared to previous strategic plans that had cost estimates between $2.2 billion and $4.6 billion over 80 years. As a result, a path has been laid out for more action, just about everywhere.