The City of Saskatoon recognizes that urban development will inevitably impact wetland resources. The intent of the Wetland Policy is to guide land use and development decisions related to wetland and riparian areas in a manner that is sensitive to the ecological integrity of wetlands and the objectives of achieving compact, sustainable and economically viable growth patterns. The Wetland Policy Project created a framework to integrate as many of the benefits and functions of wetlands as possible within the urban context while maintaining a balance between the important Strategic Goals of Environmental Leadership, Sustainable Growth, Moving Around and Quality of Life ( City of Saskatoon Strategic Plan 2013-2023).
As outlined in the Strategic Plan, the goal of Environmental Leadership includes the following long term strategies that directly relate to the benefits of wetland preservation:
- Improve the quality and reduce the quantity of storm water run-off that is going into the river,
- Reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions tied to City operations,
- Improve access to ecological systems and spaces, both natural and naturalized.
Building on the policies in the Official Community Plan and the vision and principles heard through Saskatoon Speaks and formalized in the Strategic Plan 2013-2023, the Wetland Policy ensures that wetlands will be a significant consideration in urban development and will form an integral part of our city for years to come.
Wetlands and Urban Growth
Urban growth and development puts pressure on the natural environment around us. The rapid growth that Saskatoon experienced in recent years has highlighted the increasing need to consider the impacts our development patterns have on the natural environment. The City of Saskatoon is continuously working to develop new policies and practices to minimize impacts and preserve, where possible, significant natural areas. The Wetland Policy provides guidance for the City as it seeks to balance the need to preserve important wetlands and the need for the city to continue to expand outside existing development areas.
Wetlands can be defined as: "Lands having water at, near, or above the land surface or land that is saturated with water long enough to promote aquatic processes as indicated by saturated or hydric soils, aquatic vegetation and various kinds of biological activity which are adapted to a wet environment. Wetlands can hold water temporarily or permanently with water levels fluctuating over the course of a singly year and over many years with climactic cycles."
Saskatoon is located in the Prairie Pothole region and is surrounded by many wetlands ranging from temporary and seasonal to permanent wetlands with large expanses of open water.
Wetlands provide many functions that are beneficial within urban areas, such as:
- Groundwater recharge;
- Storm water storage, providing natural flood protection;
- Natural purification of surface water through nutrient absorption such as phosphorus and nitrogen, heavy metals and pesticides;
- Habitat and food sources for waterfowl and wildlife;
- Greenhouse gases absorption; and,
- Valuable recreational and educational amenities to residents.
Recognizing the value of these and many other functions, the Wetland Policy is intended to help guide the preservation and integration of wetlands into the city, as well as their ongoing management.