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Natural Infrastructure

Using nature to solve nature’s challenges


It’s using nature’s tools – like wetlands – to solve challenges like stormwater runoff, erosion and flooding.

More formally, natural green infrastructure is defined as the use of naturally occurring ecological processes to generate infrastructure outcomes.

Natural infrastructure is a win-win opportunity

What distinguishes natural infrastructure is its ability to provide multiple positive outcomes, including biodiversity improvements, habitat protection, climate adaptation, carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services supporting the health of human communities and functioning ecosystems.

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Save money

Affordable natural infrastructure complements and extends the life cycle of built infrastructure (sometimes called grey infrastructure) such as municipal drains and conventional stormwater ponds.

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Reduce damage

Wetlands slow the flow of water from runoff into rivers and lakes and lessen the impact of flooding.

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Protect people

Wetlands are part of healthy landscapes that form buffers against the effects of extreme weather such as flooding, coastal storm surges and drought.

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Retain carbon

Wetlands trap carbon and prevent its release into the atmosphere where it would contribute to climate change.

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Supply clean water

Wetlands and their vegetation filter water, including removing excess nutrients that would otherwise find their way into streams, rivers and lakes and cause harmful algae blooms. They also store water, helping to protect against drought.

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Promote tourism

Wetlands provide food and shelter to wildlife, and they’re areas of natural beauty that draw outdoors enthusiasts. Those same qualities increase nearby property values.

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The Economics – and opportunity

The Insurance Bureau of Canada stated that losses from climate change and extreme weather rose to an average of $1.8 billion per year for 2009-2017 from $405 million for 1983-2008. The report noted that flood risk could be limited through retention and restoration of natural infrastructure such as ponds, wetlands and vegetation.

Helping municipalities

Municipalities own about 57 per cent of Canadian infrastructure. These are our roadways, bridges, shorelines, recreation places, as well as stormwater, wastewater, and drinking water facilities, with 30 per cent of these assessed as being in fair or very poor condition. As municipalities look to improve these areas, they can balance built infrastructure (grey infrastructure) with natural green infrastructure to help reduce costs and increase natural benefits.

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Our natural infrastructure projects


Building with Nature

Memories of the devastating floods that displaced thousands of Albertans in June 2013 are still vivid.

Natural Infrastructure for climate-ready Ontario

Natural Infrastructure for climate-ready Ontario

New research builds the case for leveraging wetlands to reduce flood risk.

The New Green Scene

The New Green Scene

Harnessing wetlands as green infrastructure solutions to our water woes

DUC builds rural wetlands


A new municipal drain near Melbourne, ON, is buffered by wetlands to hold and filter water from the surrounding farm fields

New report on the role of wetlands in removing phosphorus to protect lakes in Ontario

Research supports wetlands as “natural infrastructure” to reduce nutrient export in agricultural landscapes

New report on the role of wetlands in removing phosphorus to protect lakes in Ontario

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