Municipal Water Supply

Project status: This project is now concluded.

For more information about this program, please contact: Kathryn Furlong


This Infrastructure Canada (INFC) funded project ran from September 2005 to October 2008. It examined the effect of changing governance structures on the uptake of innovative technologies in municipal water supply infrastructure management in Canada. For the work, we adopted a broad definition of infrastructure, integrating both physical and programmatic technologies directed at the modification of water production, loss and consumption. The project was structured in two phases. Both involved applied case study research and results dissemination through workshops and publications. The research built upon collaborations with the University of Toronto’s Program on Water Issues ( Together with that group, we have been analyzing recent developments in municipal water supply governance in Canada since 2002.

In the pilot phase of the project, our research focused on the province of Ontario. We analyzed the effects of recent legislative change (in particular, deregulation of the electricity sector, new water legislation, and restructuring of provincial-municipal relations and funding) on water management, focusing on new governance models and their implications for water conservation and sustainability. Following the pilot study, we extended the research to include a Canada-wide series of case research. There, we reversed the arrow of inquiry. That is, we selected municipalities that were regional leaders in sustainable infrastructure management and examined the governance relationships that influenced their success.

The research project thus addressed four key objectives: increasing the level of awareness and understanding about public infrastructure; providing independent, timely policy research on an important, rapidly developing issue; fostering exchange of knowledge between policy makers, experts, practitioners, non-governmental organizations, industry, and communities; and broadening our approach to infrastructure analysis and management. The project was multidisciplinary, bringing together engineering expertise with geographical techniques of data analysis. The proposal involved multiple funders including Infrastructure Canada, SSHRC and the University of British Columbia. The time line was from September 2005 – October 2008. The project’s results in the form of two policy reports and a primer for a general audience are available on the reports and publications page.


Production of this research was made possible through a financial contribution from Infrastructure Canada. Additional project support was provided by the Canadian Water Network (CWN) and a doctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada.