The Story of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (3Rs)

The Region of Waterloo is a learning city that applies “blue” technological advancements to achieve material targets. Water knowledge is generated and communicated frequently, conveniently, and creatively. Education sessions are accessible for a diversity of audiences (e.g. plumbers, developers, property owners – residential and commercial).

“Reduction” is encouraged through economic strategies (e.g. water pricing). “Reuse” is facilitated by a focus on a reuse economy (e.g. repair centers; developing a sharing culture). “Recycling” interests grow with advancements in access to water treatment technologies and breaking down the “yuck factor” (e.g. wastewater recycling [direct potable reuse]; rain water harvesting; purpose-designated water supplies [i.e. irrigation, bathing, potable, etc.]).

Action Strategies:

  • Engage standards bodies to encourage innovation within and changes to the building code to accommodate water initiatives (e.g. building retrofits to accommodate water reuse and recycling).
  • Connect citizens with their surroundings and services to drive personal responsibility.
  • Grassroots community groups will help people form connections with the environment and to examine the barriers people related to water reuse and recycling. In this scenario, outdoor education centres and eco-school programs are key.
  • Financial incentives encourage desirable behaviour.
  • Formal recognition for members of the community who are reducing consumption.
  • Technology to make reducing, reusing, and recycling, easier. How do more adopt?
  • Higher standards/mandates for industry to improve water quality on site before discharge.

Youth education, consumer incentives, design thinking


The Story of Resource Aware Individuals

In 2040 the Region of Waterloo is a place where businesses, properties and individuals are aware of their resource sources and usage. Detailed smart metering is implemented to inform the community on their usage (both potable and waste) in real-time. Incentives (economic and other) are used to encourage resource awareness.

The Region has declared that water is a human right and the minimum quantity of water needed to live (per person) is provided to each household for free. The Region has invested in a comprehensive water education model and billing system that focuses on water use and pricing so citizens are fully informed on ways to optimize use. In response to this, a water package-pricing model is developed where an individual household or business purchases a yearly water allotment. If the consumer goes over their yearly allotment, they are required to pay for their water in addition to over-consumption penalties.

Action Strategies:

  • Both incentives and regulations are used depending on context.
  • Regulation examples: zoning, bylaws and stormwater taxes. Large-scale building systems could be required to make use of gray water recycling and water capture. Existing homeowners could buy-in to these systems.
  • Incentive examples: for rain barrels, Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) buildings and gardens for local food security.
  • How do we engage communities in exploring the idea of water as a human right vs. defining it for them. Instead of telling them how they should think, how do you involve them in the process?
  • The Region is kind of a silicon valley, which attracts high tech and water people who prototype projects that are beneficial for the community.
  • Education and how students can be engaged – moving from the theory to practice of water conservation.
  • Education will combine new technologies and old practises, to increase community awareness.
  • Approaches are developed to overcome the “yuck-factor” inhibiting water recycling or reuse.
  • Ensure public socio-economic capacity. Can  “waste” or “stormwater” be a resource?
  • Open source data and software may enable diffusion of technology and practices.

Education, overcoming cultural norms, incentives and regulations


The Story of the Forest Region – “Adopt the Grand”

In the Story of the Forest Region in 2040, Waterloo Region has created an integrated municipality that connects green and blue spaces. In 2020, Regional planners and decision makers began to implement long-term plans to create the forested Region of Waterloo. Since tree canopy will be important to climate change resiliency and for the psychological well being of citizens. As part of the resiliency plans, the Region has also seen the widespread adoption of low impact development techniques (particularly decentralized stormwater management tactics that utilize green space). After experimenting with a number of pilot case studies, the Region has implemented mandatory building requirements for all new builds and major renovations:

  • A minimum LEED building standard,
  • Permeable pavement,
  • Naturalized green space at the ground level (e.g. vegetated buffer strips at gas stations), and
  • Where possible green roofs

The Region also offers incentives to existing buildings (particularly in core areas) to encourage vegetation that helps slow and store water from precipitation events.

The Region has also implemented a local plan that is part of the watershed-focused initiative “Adopt the Grand”. The initiative encourages cities along the Grand River to integrate the river with the community in meaningful ways. The idea being that more frequent interaction with the river will encourage users to view themselves as stewards of the Grand River and overall assets of the Region (e.g. food, environment, diversity, community). These initiatives encourage more source-to-tap connections for the community.

Action Strategies:

  • An integrated watershed view is used. There is a need to develop ownership of the watershed in the community. The Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) sets regulations to increase buffer zones and trails. Neighbourhoods upstream see linkages to neighbourhoods downstream.
  • Partnerships would be needed with the following types of stewards: GRCA, schools, Residential Energy Efficiency Project (REEP), Grand Valley Trails Association, municipalities, developers, neighbourhood associations, youth groups, and farmer associations.
  • Frame environmental issues as health issues and people might be more receptive to making behaviour changes. More financial benefits if there’s is more demand, which again will come about by people being interested in the change – by changing perceptions.
  • Linkages between science and policy, people participating in the process should have similar goals.
  • How to get people motivated to learn?
  • Ideas to move us to the “forest region” include:
    • Creating easements so that the Grand River is always accessible,
    • Expanding the Green Belt to include farmland in the Region of Waterloo,
    • Neighbourhoods adopt their nearest river/stream,
    • Study of a community’s connectivity to a watershed, and connecting Forest Region with Mini Cities to create green spaces.

Partnerships, green spaces

The Story of the Mini Cities

The year is 2040 in the Story of the Mini Cities there is an effort to encourage more community action and involvement in grassroots movements that feed into the larger municipal systems. This approach creates a more tangible and personal community scale (mini cities). These growing communities lead to stronger community connections and united community voices to petition municipal government and share their insights for long-term planning.

Community building initiatives include: community gardens, local food production and activities to connect citizens with local water sources (Grand River and groundwater).
The mini city also encourages building practices that encourage small-scale renewable energy production, low impact development (permeable pavement, green roofs), waterless toilets and changes in water use practices (rainwater harvesting, water reuse).

Action Strategies:

  • Define how actions will work at the micro-level for planetary resilience, and consider water supply and transit.
  • Envision a collaborative cultural design – with unlimited relationships.
  • Provide funding to develop a “City of the Commons”.

Ideas to move toward Mini Cities:

  • Community sharing (e.g., food, vehicles, tools);
  • Education and knowledge rooted in environmental, social-cultural and economic factors for the communities;
  • Opportunities for meaningful citizen contribution and involvement with governance (e.g. city of commons); and
  • Need for equitable distribution of goods and services throughout all parts of the cities.
  • Projected results of sustainable transit included reduced pollution, improved water quality and walkability.

Key questions:

  • How can we better communicate with city councillors?
  • How can we have better community spaces in neighbourhoods?
  • How can we encourage fairness between communities/neighbourhoods?

Sustainable transit, building community, sharing resources, triple-bottom line literacy, natural heritage features, communications, water supply, shared values and governance.


Canadian Water Network
RBC Blue Water