Municipal Climate Change Assessment

Municipal Climate Sustainability Project 2020-2021

Together with the municipalities of Brigus, Clarke’s Beach, Cupids and South River, we held 12 virtual climate change workshops over the course of five months. Half of these workshops were dedicated to gaining knowledge from Town Council members and the public, while the other half were focused on the expertise of Town Staff. Our goal was to collect information on how changing climate and weather conditions have affected these municipalities, and how they might impact them in the future. We learned that issues around drinking water, flooding and coastal hazards are residents’ top concerns. This information is being compiled into reports for each municipality.

What’s Next?

CCNL will assist each town in creating a municipal asset management plan. Effectively managing assets such as water systems, roads, and other infrastructure includes preparing these systems for the effects of climate change. With increased precipitation and more severe weather events, municipalities must adapt to changing weather and climate. Implementing asset management plans that consider climate change and resident concerns will help municipalities be more sustainable, effective, and responsive to their communities’ needs.


CCNL’s Rural Asset Management in a Changing Climate (RAMCC) Project is a holistic, innovative approach to combine traditional asset management with climate change initiatives for small and rural communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. We are working to improve the health and sustainability of municipal infrastructure from a financial, social, and environmental perspective, while incorporating the challenges that climate change will bring to our communities.

The RAMCC Project will enable our partner communities to apply climate change adaptation and mitigation measures when prioritizing and planning for new infrastructure projects, renewal and replacement of existing infrastructure, and municipal service delivery.

The RAMCC Project is financially supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Government of Canada.

Our Process


Increasing ocean temperatures in the North are a major cause of increased storms with heavy rainfall. These storms are causing an increase in periods of heavy rainfall in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador are expected to see an increase in major rainstorms over the next 20-50 years. Many municipalities are expected to see an increase of 15% rainfall within a single 24-hour period, while northern municipalities such as Nain and St. Anthony can be expected to see up to a 19% rainfall increase, as shown in the graphic.

These increases could cause flooding in areas which have not traditionally had flooding problems in the past, and could negatively impact infrastructure that cannot handle increases in storm runoff.

Flooding Graph Picture1


Many of the adaptations suggested in this section are ways to manage stormwater runoff by increasing the permeability of the built landscape and preserving lands which are already highly permeable.

  • Educate the public on high-risk flooding areas, and let them know if they live in these areas.
  • Educate the public on how they can prevent flooding and protect their homes
    • Sump pumps
  • Preventative zoning and permitting
    • Updating or creating flood hazard maps, taking into consideration future climate predictions
  • Emergency measures
    • If community were to be isolated, what members of the community would need medical supplies, what members of the community would be most vulnerable
  • Identify areas which drainage problems may occur by keeping track of complaints/ areas which need maintenance. Keep records where crews are dispatched. 
  • Update culverts, and determine if their maximum output may exceed heavy flooding and rainfall 
    • Annual culvert inspections 
    • Is the culvert suitable if the water flow were to double? Triple? 
  • Look into alternate transportation routes into the community if the main route were to be impassable  
  • Porous/ permeable pavement options 
    • Permeable asphalt
      • 2-3 times more expensive that regular pavement 
      • Save on stormwater installations 
      • must be above the normal water sample 
      • may save on de-icing during winter months 
      • may be an option for parking lots in low lying areas
    • Vegetated Grid system
      • Grids made from plastic or concrete over soils and drainage material, and low maintenance grass is planted in the voids 
      • Great for low traffic parking lots or roadways
  • Reconsider the municipalities zoning regulations to prevent development on floodplains and wetlands
  • Require “setbacks” which mandates a buffer zone between natural features and development. 
    • Can vary in size depending on the feature they are protecting, from 25 feet up to 200 feet. 
    • This will increase water quality and allow for natural storage of stormwater. 
    • This will also protect soils from eroding, and protect animal habitats. 
  • Site plan review 
    • Require information on landscaping, use of native plants, storm-water treatment, % of impervious coverage when approving zonal applications 
  • Cluster development/ Conservation Design 
    • Allows for a balance between the growth of a community and the protection of wetlands and natural/open areas 
    • Unused land becomes a common space for residents to enjoy
  • Limit or stop development on wetland systems as they will naturally absorb water and will help filter contaminates and sediment common in storm runoff  
  • Increasing green areas to reduce storm runoff in urban areas
  • Rain Gardens
    • Can be in public spaces or at home
    • Depression in a low lying area with plants that can tolerate water and are native to the area 
    • Water collects in the depression and can penetrate the ground slowly more naturally rather than quickly entering the storm drains 
    • Absorbs 30-40% more water than a lawn 
    • Prevents localized flooding and also provides a habitat for various wildlife (birds, Bees)
  • Storm Planters
    • Used in cities with storm runoff issues 
    • Made of a permeable liner, ravel layer, soil layer with plants, shrubs, trees 
    • Allows water to slowly seep into the groundwater 
    • Usually has an overflow pipe in case it is over flowed 
    • Cost around $8 per square foot and maintenance could be 400-500 a month, like a typical garden (weeding, replacing soil, inflow and outflow systems to be checked)
    • Works well for small-scale runoff, low flow rate
    • More information can be found here
  • Bioswale
    • Slows and filters stormwater 
    • Manage a specific amount of runoff from a larger area, such as a parking lot or a road 
    • Linear and deep and may require engineered soils 
    • Vegetated with native plants that survive both drought and high water
  • Leaky Dams
    • Occur naturally when large sections of trees fall into and across a channel holding back water during high flows
    • Several different types of Leaky Dams, main 3 are:
      • Wedges Log
      • Leaky Boards
      • Natural Dams
    • Range from $50-200 in stricture cost
    • More information can be found here
  • Stormwater tree trench 
    • Row of trees connected with an underground filtration system 
    • Under sidewalk trees are growing in a trench which is layered with soil and gravel in order to hold and filter stormwater


Case Studies

In 2003 ice jammed up the rivers in Badger, this caused a very quick rise of the water level in the river. As a result, Badger declared a state of emergency and all 1200 residents of the town were evacuated. The flood waters froze over the next few days due to extremely cold temperatures, which hindered relief efforts. In order to predict when an event like this could happen in the future the Badger River Ice Service was expanded. Cameras were installed on the Exploits River, and satellite images are both used to assess the river's ice flow.  

More information on this can be found here


Slope Failure

Increased heavy rainfall events often cause an increase in the weathering of landforms. These landforms include cliffs, river banks, hills, etc.

If enough sediment is removed during this heavy rainfall, the slope of the landforms may fail causing sudden collapse. Due to the geography and history of Newfoundland and Labrador, many communities are built in bays or valleys, this puts them at risk of sudden surrounding slope collapse during extended heavy rainfall events.

Slope failure isn’t always seen as high risk, and as a result isn’t often incorporated into municipal planning, but with increased rainfall events and an earlier/longer spring thaw period, there is an increased risk of this happening. Northern areas seeing an increase in temperatures during the winter and spring months can see permafrost thawing which could cause slumping of the landscape in areas that were previously stable.

Most of the adaptations suggested in this section are ways to reinforce vulnerable areas or to protect already built structures from the debris associated with slope failure.


The adaptations in this section will help municipalities with slope management and permafrost thawing in developed areas, as well as preventing development in areas with poor drainage and near steep slopes that are likely to be eroded. Some of these adaptations may require more data and potentially a slope risk mapping project. A mapping project will help identify which areas are hazardous and should have some form of slope management if an area is already developed or to prevent future development in that area.

  • Protective fencing 
  • Gabion baskets 
    • Gabions are used to slow the velocity of concentrated runoff or to stabilize slopes with seepage problems and/or non-cohesive soils. 
  • Drainage Trenches
  • Planting Vegetation 
    • primary factors include, root reinforcement, soil moisture modification, buttressing and arching and wind-throwing.
  • Natural stabilization 
    • Methods such as hay bales, loose hay, brush and wood debris, in combination with native plants. Hay bales absorb rainwater and protects from wind and rain. Hay will decompose and provide an environment for plants to grow


  • Remove accumulated snow to reduce temperatures on the grounds surface
  • Thermosyphon 
  • Permafrost hazard maps
    • consult with community elders and community members 
    • satellite images 
    • geotechnical report 
  • Drainage Systems

Case Studies

The provincial hazards-mapping program mapped the area of Conception Bay South (CBS) in order to assist the municipality in avoiding development on hazardous areas. It was done using slope, adjacency to the coast, potential flood risk, and areas of known hazard and mapped those factors into a combined risk map. The risk was divided into low, moderate, and high. For those areas classified as high risk it was recommended to restrict development or conduct a detailed assessment, with plans to reduce risk of existing structures.  

More information on this case study can be found here


Water Quality

Many municipalities get their water from surface water sources such as rivers and lakes. These sources are vulnerable to climate change, as increased storms and flooding can cause an increase in turbidity and an increase in organic content or other potential contaminants in the water supply.

Increasing temperatures can also affect water treatment as it could mean an increase in waterborne bacteria, or more harmful bacteria in the water during seasons which were not previously a concern. Increasing temperatures could also cause a water shortage and put strain on water distribution systems. In periods of drought not only will there be less input to the water source, but residents may be using more water to maintain lawns for aesthetic reasons.

Sea level rising is another aspect of climate change that can impact groundwater quality due to the potential for salt water intrusion. This could impact some drinking water wells if they’re near the coast. There have not been any cases of this in Newfoundland and Labrador, but it is not closely monitored, and is common in other parts of Atlantic Canada.


The adaptations in this section covers a wide variety of topics, from power failure to water storage and monitoring and regulating salt water intrusion.

  • Back-up?
  • Management plan after backup occurs 
  • Alternate water supply 
    • Artesian wells 
    • Additional reservoirs (for firefighting measures)
  • Develop emergency response plan
  • Lower intake pipe in the water source pond
  • Educate public about water conservation 
  • Partner with neighboring communities to share each others water supply in times of emergency 
  • Alternate water supply, groundwater
  • Encourage the use of rain barrels so residents could collect their own water for gardening during dry periods 
  • Get rid of or loosen bylaws requiring lawn maintenance for aesthetic purposes. Plants other than grass may need less water and have better drainage 
  • Identify leaks in the water distribution systems and ensure no water is being lost unnecessarily 
  • Little reports of salt water intrusion in NL, so it must be monitored in areas vulnerable to sea level rise and water supply demand 
  • Collaboration with universities, community groups, citizens, and levels of government in order to identify areas of concern 
  • not an immediate cause of concern but with predicted levels of sea level rise, better planning is important to protect fresh water sources for the future 
  • Monitoring 
    • Saltwater intrusion is not specifically monitored provincially or federally in the Atlantic provinces
    • Elevated salt in a well does not necessarily mean salt water intrusion, it must be measured in numerous samples over a long period of time 
    • Modeling groundwater flow 
  • Regulation 
    • Regulations to reduce pumping rates and move wells further inland (some of these regulations already exist by the provincial government) 
    • Coastal environments are variable so regulations that are appropriate for one area may not be for another 
    • Reduce demand for groundwater 
    • Public education on reducing water usage and conservation 
    • Integrate supply and demand policies 
  • Engineering 
    • Artificial recharge 
      • Adding water through man made systems 
      • Increases the amount of fresh water to control/ prevent saltwater intrusion 
      • Water is stored in permeable man-made basin which will recharge the aquifer 
    • Aquifer storage and recovery (ASR)
      • Fresh water is injected into the aquifer during high supply seasons 
      • Recovered during low supply 
    • Barrier systems (two categories)
      • Physical barriers: low permeable material which blocks the intrusion of saltwater 
      • Hydraulic barriers: injecting fresh water or pumping saltwater to prevent movement of saltwater interface inland 
    • Desalination
      • Salt and mineral content are removed from brackish or seawater 
    • Blending 
      • Desalinated water is mixed with fresh water at the surface in order to meet drinking water standards 

Case Studies

Port au Choix has two main components of the local economy; the fish plant and the tourism industry, both rely on a source of clean water. The sources of water for the community are three linked precipitation fed ponds and three artesian wells. Even though the sources are limited, the water levels have historically, always been high. During the summer of 2009 both the interpretation Centre (run by parks Canada) and the fish plant were running at capacity, which put a strain on the water sources. In a normal year the sources might have been able to keep up with the demand, but the previous winter had been warm and the summer unusually dry. This meant the source ponds were not filled by either a spring melt, or by rainfall in the summer, leading to extremely low water levels. The town decided to close the interpretation Centre and use their independent water source (one of the three lakes). It wasn’t long before rain had come, and the supply was recharged. The town avoided major crisis, but this event highlighted how a changing climate can impact resources that were once viewed as infinite. The town and Parks Canada made an adaptation plan to reduce their risk of any water shortage in the future.  Their plan can be found here



Winter temperatures in Newfoundland and Labrador have been increasing. This is creating an increase in the frequency of ice storms, rain events, freeze-thaw patterns, heavy snowfall events, and an earlier spring thaw throughout all areas of the province.

Increased frequency of weather events and a general increase in overall winter temperatures will cause a variety of issues that municipalities must adapt to in order to preserve way of life for their residents, potentially save on future costs of damaged infrastructure, and increase overall safety and preparedness of residents.

The effects of climate change will vary based on the location but can include damage to paved roadways, increased cost of ice management, long-term power outages, loss of traditional hunting paths and winter roads in the north, among others.

Communities in Labrador are especially susceptible to climate change effects as a warming winter will cause less predictable ice thickness and an increase in precipitation which means a loss of time for traditional hunting and gathering of firewood in vulnerable northern communities. Winter recreation activities will also be affected in Newfoundland and Labrador.


Adaptations in this section will help municipalities with power outages, property damage and snow clearing in the winter months.

  • Have multiple warming stations planned with supplies
  • Have a list of residents who may be vulnerable
    • Box to tick?
    • Volunteer program? Have neighbours check on each other
  • Create emergency plan and do mock disasters
  • Encourage residents to have a backup heat source
  • Keep records of town work orders to identify problem areas
  • Keep records of complaints made to the town
  • Educate residents on proper building material for storms and provide incentives for new development and renovations
    • Connect roof to walls with nails not staples
    • Four sloped hip roofs and 30 degrees rather than a gable roof
    • Roof overhang which is less than 20 inches
    • Metal roofing
    • Shingles may not seal in the fall
  • Re-evaluate current methods
    • Possibly leasing snow clearing equipment to save on costs on maintaining own equipment, if current equipment is old
    • Hire own staff for winter maintenance
  • Make an efficient snow clearing plan for heavy snowfalls
  • Permeable/pervious pavement requires less salt and will form less ice as well as helping drainage systems for floods. Would be suitable for parking lots.

Case Studies

Climate change can increase the unpredictability of winter conditions and in many coastal Labrador communities this means unpredictable sea ice. Due to increased temperatures and rainfall in the middle of winter, the sea-ice became unsafe to travel on. This meant that important routes were not accessible, and people could not hunt or collect firewood. Luckily the community had stockpiled firewood the previous winter. By the following season however the wood supply had run low, and many members of the community could not heat their homes. Community based programs such as the  “InosiKatigeKagiamik Illumi: Healthy Home” are needed to ensure that vulnerable areas and people are able to heat their homes. 

For more information, please click here


Coastal Sensitivity

Many communities in Newfoundland and Labrador are located near the coast, which could be vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased frequency of serious storms.

This could cause increased erosion of a number of coastal environments. Though coastal erosion is a natural part of the land, climate change can increase the rate of erosion well past what would naturally happen.

Municipalities can adapt their policies and infrastructure to prevent loss of roadways and structures to erosion, and sea level rise. Though many coastal communities are of high enough elevation to not be directly impacted by sea level rise, an increased erosion of cliff faces and damage to wharfs and marine infrastructure could still affect communities. A loss or reduction of sea ice can also increase coastal erosion.


Due to the variability of coastal environments in Newfoundland and Labrador, adaptation options will depend on the shoreline type, which could vary even within small communities.

  • Concerns: Erosion, sea level rise, flooding and storm surges 
  • Adaptations options: 
    • Allow mobility of sand through the system, particular important for dunes 
    • Reduce development near the coast especially in a dune system 
    • Limit ATV and vehicle access, as frequent use compacts sand grains and increase erosion further back on the beach 
    • Limit structures which impede sediment flow 
    • Living shoreline/ wetland 
    • Dune building 
    • Plant stabilization 
    • Beach nourishment 
    • Buried revetment
  • Northern peninsula 
  • Concerns: sea level rise, storm surges 
  • Adaptations: flood management for nearby infrastructure
  • Concerns: Sea level rise, erosion, storm surge, Cliff face failure (undercutting) 
  • Adaptations:
    • restricting land use, 
    • cliff and bluff stabilization 
    • while rock walls may be effective at protective shorelines, in promotes shoreline squeeze and natural options would be more ideal to protect the natural ecosystem
  • Concerns: erosion, sea level rise, storm surge, cliff face failure. High erosion in the gypsum cliff shorelines of Southwest Newfoundland 
  • Adaptations
    • Restricting land use 
    • Cliff or bluff stabilization through rock armouring or planting vegetation 
    • Engineered revetment 
    • Scour protection 
    • Artificial reefs
  • Concerns: sea level rise. Storm surge (increased erosion)
  • Adaptations
    • little research, few engineering tools. 
    • Land use planning tools, restricting development, land use changes
  • Coastline of Placentia bay
  • Associated with mesotidal estuaries on the West coast of Newfoundland
  • Concerns: Seal level rise, erosion, sea level squeeze 
  • Adaptations: 
    • Allow for salt marsh growth (protect areas around it- as sea levels rise, salt marsh will move further inland, protection these areas will act as a flood management strategy)
    • Protect vegetation


Wildfire is defined as a large, destructive fire that spreads quickly over woodland or brush.

As climate change causes drier and hotter summers, we will see an increase in the chances of wildfire activity due to drier forests.

The main cause of wildfires in Newfoundland is human activity, but with drier forests these fires will become much larger and harder to control than they have in the past. Lightning storms are very common in Labrador, and are a huge contributing factor to the number of wildfires they have. There will most likely be an increase in the frequency of lightning storms in Labrador due to climate change.

A drier season can cause 3 times as many wildfires compared to a wetter season as seen in 2018 (48 wildfires in 22 days) compared to 2017 (14 wildfires in 22 days).


Adaptations for municipalities will focus on reducing the number of wildfires started by human activity, reduce the potential damages on private and public property, and ensure an emergency plan is in place in case of a wildfire.

  • Municipalities should monitor the fire index and have a way to communicate with residences. This could include signs within popular camping sites, which display an up to date fire index and what that means for the area.
  • During high risk periods (droughts) municipalities should implement fire bans and have an effective way to communicate with residences (radio, app, social media)
  • Hold public outreach days on fire suppression awareness
  • Become a FireSmart community
  • Identify the interface priority zones within the community. These are the homes that will be most vulnerable to wildfires. These areas would need to be evacuated first in the event of a fire.
  • Use FireSmart guidelines to educate public on the best construction materials to use in their homes and plans to reduce the chance of a wildfire damaging and spreading between homes.

  • Municipalities could require homes to be built with certain fire safety standards in the interface zones
  • Provide incentives for new homes built to be fire safe (based on FireSmart technologies)
  • Create bylaws based around fuel management within the interface priority zones
  • Ensure fire departments have enough equipment to protect houses form an encroaching fire
    • Portable pumps and extra long hoses
    • Plenty of water sources near interface zones
    • Sprinkler system
  • Create a fire equipment sharing program between nearby towns to save on costs for extra equipment that may not be used daily (only in the case of a large wildfire)
  • Create a detailed emergency / evacuation plan including members from:
    • School bus/ transportation companies
    • Schools
    • Hospitals
    • Personal care homes
    • Community non-profits (clothing donations, supplies etc.)
    • Media
    • Fire department
    • Police department
    • Neighbouring communities
  • Create an emergency preparedness plan which organizes volunteers to help neighbours in the event of an evacuation or encroaching wildfires. In many places this would happen anyways, but vulnerable members of the community may feel more secure knowing there is a plan for someone to help them.
  • Complete table top disaster exercises with representatives from different organizations in the community and exercises which are open to the public.
  • Have a communication plan in place

Case Studies

Kamloops is a city in British Columbia of 93 000 people that is particularly vulnerable to wildfire because of its dry climate. In 2003 more than 2500 wildfires caused damages to homes, businesses and public infrastructures all across British Columbia. There were 3 deaths, 334 homes and businesses destroyed and 45 000 people evacuated from their homes during this time. During this time Kamloops served as the command and control center for emergency workers and as a temporary refuge for thousands of evacuees from surrounding areas. Kamloops established a multi-stakeholder committee to coordinate its wildfire response in 1998 to help minimize potential home and infrastructure damage. In 2004 the city conducted a hazard assessment that resulted in a map marking all public and private lands within the city on a wildfire scale class from extreme,high, moderate or low. They also did assessments on a forest fuel management plan, fuel management operations, Wildland-Urban Interface covenant, public and landowner education and compliance, and a best practice wildfire planning guide. 

More information can be found here