Marsh Canada Prairies Alberta

Natural Infrastructure for Water Solutions (NIWS)

Over the next 5 years, we are scaling up natural infrastructure on Canada's Prairies—for cleaner water and more resilient communities.

What does a thriving community look like to you?

For us, among many things, thriving communities are places where people have access to clean, fresh water, can depend on reliable and sustainable infrastructure year-round, and are protected from the ever-increasing impacts of climate change.

How do we get there?

Natural Infrastructure for Water Solutions is a 5-year IISD initiative to scale up natural infrastructure on Canada's Prairies—for cleaner water and more resilient communities.

Working alongside stakeholders from many sectors, we are:

  • Making the business case for natural infrastructure, by demonstrating how impactful and cost-effective it can be
  • Encouraging local municipalities to adopt more natural infrastructure projects
  • Enabling access to funding for those who want to implement natural infrastructure
  • Making sure that natural infrastructure is supported and championed by all levels of government.
Logo for IISD Natural Infrastructure Project

Why natural infrastructure?

Natural infrastructure is a way to plan and build with nature to meet our infrastructure needs.

Imagine more wetlands (both natural and designed)green roofs, and stormwater parks, working actively to meet the needs of prairie communities. Natural infrastructure can be a preserved ecosystem (e.g., wetland), a restored ecosystem (e.g., replanted riparian area), or even a nature-based engineered feature (e.g., green roof).

The common thread? Natural infrastructure is managed to provide specific infrastructure benefits, with the potential for many other social and environmental benefits. There is increasing evidence that natural infrastructure can deliver much-needed water outcomes cost efficiently while also providing areas for recreation, habitat to support wildlife, and improving the overall resilience of our communities.

Why the Canadian Prairies?

Economically, there is a big and widening gap between the water infrastructure we have, the infrastructure we need, and the resources and funding available to make it happen.

Ecologically, the Canadian prairie provinces contain some unique and threatened ecosystems—including grasslands and wetlands—that support a clean, reliable water supply and water treatment as well as critical habitat.

Socially, the prairies are home to hundreds of small and medium-sized communities that are facing mounting water risks, including floods, droughts, algal blooms, and the overall impacts of climate change.

NIWS brings together partners to look at ways in which natural infrastructure can help meet these complex, interlinked challenges to ensure our water needs into the future. All this while embracing the power of nature.

Why us?

Here at IISD, we have been championing the benefits of natural infrastructure for decades, from deploying floating treatment wetlands at the world's freshwater laboratory to soak up harmful excess nutrients to managing a wetland at Pelly's Lake, Manitoba to protect local areas from flooding.

Now we are building on that legacy to transform the way that nature is viewedas a way of meeting critical infrastructure needs.

Want to join us?

To learn more and to get involved, email Josée Méthot at [email protected]