2013 RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study: Urban-dwellers ill-prepared for impact of Mother Nature on water



Urban sprawl and paved paradise threaten clean fresh water today and tomorrow, says leading expert

While nine-in-10 (90 per cent) Canadians believe that an extreme weather-related disaster is possible in their community, town or city, few are aware of the consequences if excess water caused by rain and snow storms is not managed properly. In towns and cities across Canada, paved surfaces, overloaded storm water management infrastructure and extreme weather conditions dramatically increase the challenge of managing excess water caused by storms.

“Extreme storms have a direct impact on water, as storm water runoff can drag contaminants into local waterways and pollute water bodies that are important for recreation and water supplies,” says Bob Sandford, chair of Canadian Partnership Initiative of the UN Water for Life Decade.

“All the impermeable surfaces in cities create the ideal condition for excess water to overwhelm our already strained municipal storm water systems. Municipalities, property developers and homeowners must work together to better manage storm water.”

Ahead of World Water Day on March 22, the sixth annual 2013 RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study, commissioned by the RBC Blue Water Project and administered by GlobeScan, found that while two-thirds of Canadians (68 per cent) say that we should be prepared for the possibility of a major disaster that affects storm water management systems, only one-in-five (19 per cent) believe that major actions are required now.


What are Canadians willing to do to help?

This is not just a municipal planning issue. Sandford says that individual Canadians could be doing their part to manage excess water from rain and snowstorms around their homes now. Yet, according to the study, few Canadians have taken preventive measures such as landscaping with grading (23 per cent) or replacing paved surfaces with water-permeable materials such as interlocking stone or gravel (seven per cent).

Paved and impermeable surfaces are part of the problem. Half (47 per cent) of Canadians say their ‘ideal’ house has a paved driveway or yard – and the majority of these wouldn’t change this preference even when told about the positive impact of permeable surfaces, which allow rainwater and melted snow to seep slowly into the ground rather than causing polluted runoff. Only one-in-ten (12 per cent) Canadians indicated that they would replace paved surfaces with water-permeable materials such as interlocking stone.

“Canadians continue to have a love affair with paved driveways, and there’s a serious trickle-down effect. With impermeable sidewalks, roadways and parking lots added to the mix, we’ve actually created the ideal condition for excess water to overwhelm our already strained municipal water and storm water systems,” says Sandford.

According to the study, most Canadians say that they plan to take measures to help prevent water damage in and around their home in the coming year such as maintaining eavestroughs and downspouts (64 per cent) and adding landscaping such as grading (33 per cent).

“In most cities across Canada, infrastructure is crumbling and in urgent need of replacement or repair. It’s time for a wake-up call,” says Sandford. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimates cost of replacement for drinking water, wastewater and storm water infrastructure reported to be in ‘fair’ or ‘very poor’ condition to be approximately $80 billion.

A large majority of Canadians (78 per cent) continue to trust that their municipal water infrastructure is in good condition and don’t see a need for major investments. Despite this confidence, just 15 per cent of Canadians admit to being ‘very aware’ of the condition of their municipal water infrastructure. Additionally, an overwhelming number of Canadians (80 per cent) are not willing to pay for necessary storm water management system upgrades.


To Learn More:

To read an article published by the Canada’s Insurance and Risk Magazine, click on Canadians concerned about possible water damage from storms, but may not be prepared for it: survey.