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First-ever plan on economics of water storage networks in development

Theirs will be a first-ever plan that builds an investment case for flood and drought resiliency, says Seine Rat River Conservation District manager

2019 will see a comprehensive flood and drought protection plan produced for southeastern Manitoba, the first ever to be developed in the province.

Now under development in the Seine Rat River Conservation District, the plan will eventually map out sites across the district most prone to excess water flow, or vulnerable to dry spells, and lay out recommendations as to where best to site water storage projects to reduce risks associated with both.

Why it matters: Plans that show the economics of flood and drought resilience provide an investment case for it.

Uniquely, it will also attach a price tag for such projects, showing the cost for constructing such network and the return on investing against those risks.

Jodi Goerzen, district manager for SRRCD, described the project and progress being made on it at the Manitoba Conservation Districts Association (MCDA) convention just before Christmas.

“What we’re trying to figure out is an accurate cost assessment for both the impacts (of flood and drought) and for the projects that would build in resilience to them,” she said.

Conservation district staff are presently developing the flood and drought risk maps, which will be overlaid with data showing the costs and benefits of building networked storage sites.

It aims to give municipalities information they need for their decision-making, she said.

“It’s an actual formula that we can make decisions on,” she said. “The cost of drought and the cost of flooding, an accurate cost for both their impacts, and for the projects that would build in resilience… we’ll have that all assessed and valued,” she said. “We’re hoping to be able to figure out where the most effective sites are, and where we can get the most bang for our buck for flood and drought protection.”

Municipalities have long requested this kind of information but only recently has the technology to provide it become available, she said. Mapping and analysis technology through models like the Wetland Digital Elevation Model (WDEM) and the Land and Infrastructure Resiliency Assessment (LIRA) model makes this possible.

Technology like LIDAR, also makes it much faster to produce required data.

“What used to take us months, to figure out a potential retention scheme, now takes us five minutes,” said Goerzen.

What municipalities can also use this information the flood and drought protection plan provides is to potentially develop alternative land use payments or tax breaks for landowners who might be approached to store water on their land, she continued.

Notably, fewer farmers volunteer to store water on land as the price of it goes, up, she added.

The Municipality of Hanover is the lead municipality among the 16 municipalities the SRRCD encompasses.

Hank Venema, principal and chief technology officer with Strategic Community Consulting (SCC) is the lead engineer working with SRRCD on the project.

SCC’s focus is on providing government and private sector investors with high-quality ROI analysis and investment due diligence services for these kinds of projects, and networks of projects.

This project is about building an investment case for the kind of infrastructure needed for flood and drought resilience needed right across Manitoba, Venema told the MCDA in December.

“We’re raising the bar on natural infrastructure investment planning,” he said. “Manitoba needs it and investors want it.”

The goal is to have the flood and drought protection plan done and ready to roll out mid-2019, Goerzen said.

“It’s an extensive process,” she said. “We’re definitely hoping that we’ll have it done by around summer or mid-2019.”

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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