What is natural infrastructure?
As Calgarians, we enjoy the municipal services as well as the social, economic and environmental advantages these spaces provide. Natural Infrastructure ranges from ‘green’ natural assets such as natural landscapes and wetlands to engineered structures that harness natural processes to provide resilience benefits.
Benefits of natural infrastructure
Natural infrastructure can:
- provide recreational opportunities,
- contribute to our physical and mental well-being,
- reduce water treatment needs,
- reduce the impacts of flooding,
- improve air quality,
- reduce the urban heat island effect,
- provide wildlife habitat and more.
Working towards natural infrastructure
Calgary has partnered with Cities around Canada and the world in re-thinking how we look at and benefit from natural assets.
Many services that local governments provide - including drinking water, wastewater treatment and stormwater management - depend on traditional engineered assets. Many engineered assest are ageing, need renewal and are at risk for increased damage during extreme storm events.
Natural infrastructure reliably provides or enhances many of the same services while providing community and quality of life benefits, reducing infrastructure costs and vulnerabilities, and protecting and improving natural systems.
In Calgary, we have an opportunity to integrate natural infrastructure into our traditional infrastructure and asset management frameworks.
The City of Calgary is undertaking its own study to develop a Natural Infrastructure Valuation Toolkit. Natural infrastructure provides spaces for people to enjoy recreation activities but also helps mitigate risk. Organizations like the Insurance Bureau of Canada note that they play a significant role in reducing flood risk for communities.
A shared understanding of the value of natural infrastructure and the multitude of services they provide will assist decision-makers in making choices related to investment and planning decisions.
- In 2019 Earth Economics helped to develop a high-level Natural Infrastructure Blueprint for The City of Calgary to support its natural assets. The overall process recommended includes a recurring cycle of awareness-raising; place-based analysis and implementation; and, the development of supporting policies, procedures and funding mechanisms.
Resilience in action
The City is working with partners at the Calgary Board of Education on how to support naturalization projects on school site land. Examples of school site projects and resources
- reGenerate Design
- Calgary Horticultural Society - Find a community garden
- Seed Survivor - Schoolyard naturalization
If your school community is interested in starting a school site naturalization project, you can get in touch with your school principal to initiate the process.
Tools and Workshops
- Completing and Using Ecosystem Service Assessment for Decision-Making: An Interdisciplinary Toolkit for Managers and Analysts
- Advancing Municipal Natural Infrastructure Management in Alberta Workshop
- Summary Document and Preliminary Roadmap for the Workshop: “Advancing Municipal Natural Infrastructure Management in Alberta