Environmental Planning & Innovation

Best Practices for Rural Communities


Dr. W.J. Caldwell, Professor,
School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
University of Guelph


Dr. Jennifer Ball
School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
University of Guelph

Christopher Black


University of Guelph, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development

executive summary
Rural municipalities often face a dilemma. Increasingly, they are asked by ratepayers (and the province) to address environmental issues, while there are significant financial and staff limitations on their ability to respond. The relationship between environmental issues and public health also increases the relevance of these issues. Moreover, traditional and urban based approaches are not designed for rural communities and tend not to work. Rural issues, rural stakeholders and rural space demands unique and innovative strategies.

These concerns are compounded by the increasingly importance of environmental issues in rural Ontario. The environment has gained attention for at least 2 key reasons. First, ratepayers are more aware and insistent on environmental action. Clean air, water and environmental protection are seen as right. Second, the magnitude of the environmental issues such as water quality and climate change continues to demand the need for appropriate responses.

Many rural municipalities are attempting to respond. Some focus on regulatory policy while others experiment with community based processes and the application of more innovative tools such as payment for ecological goods and services. Despite these initiatives there is limited innovation and sharing success. This research promises tangible results that will benefit rural municipalities, communities and residents from across the province.

goals and objectives
  • To identify current rural municipal policy, program and process approaches to environmental issues
  • To seek out innovative strategies and approaches that offer lessons for other rural municipalities in striving for sustainability
    • Related to this, the research will include a specific question for agriculture communities focusing on the use of Agricultural Advisory Committees and the role that they may play in determining appropriate municipal environmental
  • To review the capacity of rural municipalities to take appropriate action in response to environmental issues and to identify related resources needs and deficiencies
  • To develop resource materials (including case studies and best practices) that can assist rural municipalities in planning for and delivering appropriate actions to help achieve sustainability
  • To evaluate municipal readiness for Source Water Protection under the Clean Water Act (this objective funded by Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority)