Natural Infrastructure Resources

Natural Infrastructure isn’t a pipe (or piping) dream: it’s being planned and installed all over Ontario. Here are some organizations and programs that you can reach out to for ideas, partnerships or support.

Bringing Natural Infrastructure into our Parks

Natural Infrastructure doesn’t just belong on your property, it belongs in all public spaces, including our parks. In 2017, Park People (which supports and mobilizes community park groups, community organizers, non-profits, park professionals and funders who activate the power of parks) published a report that offers ideas about how to make this a reality.

Resilient Parks, Resilient City

City of Toronto Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program

This initiative addresses the increasing pressures placed on sewer systems during major storm events, and is tackling the issue of flooding by conducting basement projects across the GTA.

Residential homeowners can obtain subsidies of up to $3,400 for the installation of flood protection devices such as backwater valves and sump pumps. Prior to implementing these devices, an environmental assessment is conducted in which sewer systems and surrounding landscapes are thoroughly examined.

The Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program also connects with local community members regarding basement flooding construction activities. A map created by the Program outlines basement flooding studies that have been completed and are currently in progress throughout the city.

City of Toronto Basement Flooding Subsidy Program

Drown and Park: Why Parking Lots in Toronto need to Change

This paper examines how parking lots contribute to the flooding problems facing Torontonians and how City Hall policies allow parking lot owners to pay almost nothing for using the city’s stormwater system. We conclude with a set of recommendations designed to ensure parking lot owners pay their fair share and provide incentives to install permeable pavement.

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Five Natural Infrastructure Success Stories

People across the planet are installing wonderful examples of natural infrastructure in cities. Evergreen, a national environmental group that is helping make cities flourish, has brought together 5 success stories in an easy-to-read blog post. Learn about what people are doing in Vancouver, Philadelphia, Melbourne (Australia), Copenhagen, and Singapore. You will be inspired.

5 Blue-Green Infrastructure Projects Making a Splash

Flooding in Oshawa

In this report, we outline the new reality of flooding in Oshawa. We summarize the work done to model flood threats by the Conservation Authority and make recommendations on how the City of Oshawa can work to prepare for and mitigate flooding. It identifies who is at risk and what people and governments can do to reduce this risk.

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Green Streets, City of Toronto

Green Streets Toronto aims to advance the application of natural infrastructure (NI) along road-ways and sidewalks. NI solutions used in Green Streets are designed to treat stormwater at the source by replicating natural drainage systems, potentially eliminating the need for stormwater management systems that rely on grey infrastructure.

NI projects completed by Green Streets include the Queensway Sustainable Sidewalk, which uses tree planting technology to treat stormwater runoff, while Fairford Parkette relies on bioretention facilities to absorb and filter stormwater.

Green Streets, City of Toronto
Green Streets Technical Guidelines

Home Flood Protection Resources

The Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation offers a number of resources to help residents reduce their risk of experiencing a basement flood. Visit their “one stop shop” resources page for a variety of videos, checklists, brochures and links to other flood reduction information.

Flood Protection Resources

National Disaster Mitigation Program

This program was established in 2015 by the Government of Canada as a five-year plan to build safe and resilient communities. The NDMP ensures Canada’s ability to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from extreme flooding events. By providing up-to-date knowledge on how to reduce flood-related risks, the program helps governments, communities, and individuals understand and invest in effective mitigation strategies.

Typically, Provincial and Territorial governments are provided with funding under the NDMP. Governments may however choose to collaborate at a more regional level by redistributing funding to public/private sectors, local governments, and/or international NGOs. Four funding streams are available:

  • Risk Assessments
  • Flood Mapping
  • Mitigation Planning
  • Investments in Structural Mitigation Planning

A province or territory can access any funding stream if they are able to provide evidence that a particular project or assessment is required.

Government of Canada, NDMP

Depave Paradise, Green Communities Canada

The Depave Paradise program works with communities nationwide to replace paved surfaces with permeable ones. Volunteers and community members remove asphalt and concrete from urban areas (parking lots, driveways, paved schoolyards), and plant gardens with native plant species that manage stormwater runoff and enhance local biodiversity. As of 2012, the program has carried out 43 events in 19 cities, transforming nearly 8,000m² of pavement into living green spaces.

In summer 2019, Depave Paradise completed five projects in Peterborough, Ontario, each with an area of just over 100m. The program now plans to expand its depaving projects into Downtown Peterborough. Due to a lack of space in such high-density regions, Depave Paradise will create “Pocket Parks” with an area of less than 50m², scattered throughout the downtown core, providing a small area of recreational and green space.

Depave Paradise
Pocket Paradise


Natural Infrastructure Resources from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

We rely on the TRCA to warn us about floods and to help manage our flood plains. But they’re also experts at helping residents and businesses install natural infrastructure:

For homeowners: Home and Garden Resources
For businesses: Sustainable Technologies Evaluation Program

NATURhoods, by Green Venture

Green Venture empowers Hamiltonians to implement greener practices in their homes and communities to make our city a climate champion. NATURhoods supports neighbours working together for the greener good through nature-based solutions. It offers residents information, ideas and events about combatting climate change and using natural infrastructure to “naturally adapt to urban runoff.”


Open Up to Nature (anywhere in Canada)

“It’s time we all let a little more nature into our lives. Join our journey to nature today.” That’s how the Canadian Freshwater Alliance (a national initiative that builds, unites and activates networks of freshwater champions to drive change and secure healthy waters for all) approaches natural infrastructure. Their Open Up to Nature program has lots of valuable tips and resources, for people in all parts of Canada.
Open Up to Nature

Provincial Flood Forecasting and Warning Program

Conservation Authorities in Ontario developed this program which monitors and predicts storm-water flows and levels. The program is also responsible for operating dams and informing local municipalities of any forecasted flood events. Their main page, updated on a regular basis, offers daily flood messages for regions across Ontario, along with a map indicating areas under a flood watch or warning.

Ontario Flood Map

RAIN Community Solutions

Green Communities Canada launched the RAIN program in 2010 after recognizing the incredible impact of stormwater runoff in urban areas. RAIN aims to reduce the speed of stormwater flows, maximize infiltration, and prevent harmful pollutants from entering our waterways through the use of natural infrastructure.

Working with municipalities, property owners, and community groups, RAIN Community Solutions provides home and business owners with information on how to effectively manage storm-water on their property.

RAIN has also developed a “Soak It Up! Toolkit” outlining a comprehensive list of actions that can be taken by municipalities to reduce stormwater runoff, including:

  • Implementation of NI into the political framework of municipalities
  • Education and engagement of property owners on the importance of NI
  • Management of alleyways to improve stormwater flow (i.e. Green Alley Program)
  • Investing in a healthy urban forest to manage stormwater

Resources from Credit Valley Conservation

Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) provides landowners in the Credit River Watershed with resources to protect their homes and businesses from flooding and adding natural infrastructure to urban yards, gardens, and corporate properties.

Learn about Flood Warning and Forecasting

For homeowners:

For businesses and institutions:

SNAP, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

The Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Plan (SNAP) was developed by the TRCA to provide sustainable solutions to urban renewal projects while promoting community engagement. SNAP works with residents, businesses, and local community groups to identify and implement strategies that improve neighbourhood resiliency. The program encourages their participation from planning and consultation stages, to the conception of the final project. It tailors programs based on community norms, convenience and incentives, and is able to engage locals through various demonstration projects.

TRCA Sustainable Neighborhoods

The Many Benefits of Natural Infrastructure

This paper is about the tools that imitate nature and reduce the amount of water that flows into our stormwater system. It’s called “natural” infrastructure. Essentially, natural infrastructure uses nature to absorb, clean and channel water in ways that reduce the harm caused by flooding.

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Tips from Landscape Professionals

Landscape Ontario represents over 2,000 members in Ontario’s horticultural industry and works towards representing, promoting and fostering a favourable climate for the advancement of the horticulture industry in Ontario.

Landscape Ontario has a variety of online resources about installing natural infrastructure:

How to Build a Rain Garden Video Series
-Slowing Water By Design
-Finding a Professional who understands Natural Infrastructure

What Great Lakes Are Doing to Support Natural Infrastructure

This paper looks at three cities – Milwaukee, Buffalo and Thunder Bay – that have made natural infrastructure an important tool in their stormwater management toolbox. Their efforts – think of them as having “invented the wheel” – mean we now have an opportunity to learn from them and, where appropriate, imitate them.

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What the Province Should Do

This paper is written for concerned Ontarians who want to better understand flooding and the role the Province plays in responding to and minimizing the damage done by flooding. We argue that while the Province is doing many things well, it is not adequately utilizing an important tool, natural infrastructure, in its fight against flooding. The paper concludes with key recommendations for what the Province can do.

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