Green Infrastructure Cost - Ontario Tender Costs Support Economic Analysis for Master Plans, Asset Management, Retrofit Strategies

Numerous green infrastructure, low impact development (LID) stormwater best management practices (BMPs), projects have been implemented in Ontario and across North America. To support planning studies and strategy development, capital costs for implementation are required.  The following table summarizes recent project costs, based largely in Ontario.

The average cost per treated hectare is $530,000 (total project costs are weighted by total project area).  The design volume for the majority of the projects is not available.

Cost of Green Infrastructure Ontario
Ontario (and Alberta) Green Infrastructure Costs

The cost for these LID measures varies according to the type of feature as shown on the following chart that plots cost vs. service area (drainage catchment controlled).  Projects were grouped by type where possible, although some projects may incorporate more than one type in a treatment train.  The chart illustrates that Infiltration Trenches have the lowest cost per drainage area served. Rain Garden & Bioswales have the highest cost.

Green Infrastructure Cost Ontario
Ontario (and Alberta) Green Infrastructure Cost by Type of Low Impact Development Measure
Previous posts summarized costs from programs in the US.  The summary of 39 Ontario (and a couple Alberta) projects represent a total capital cost of $19.2M and a total service area of 36.2 hectares.  This area is comparable to the area of costed green infrastructure projects in the US EPA International BMP database.

The following table compares cost by LID type for three sources, the Philadelphia CSO control program, the ES UPA BMP database, and the compiled Ontario (and Alberta) tenders noted above.  The Philadelphia and the US EPA data both include design storage volume that may be considered for achieving different types of stormwater management goals (i.e., levels of service / performance outcomes).

Green Infrastructure Cost LID Cost
Green Infrastructure Costs by Type and Design Volume - Philadelphia CSO Control Program, US EPA BMP Database, and Ontario (and Alberta) Completed Projects

Some key observations are that porous/permeable pavement has a relatively high cost per drainage area ($/ha), however the cost per storage volume is relatively low for the US EPA datasets - this warrants further review.  The Ontario/Alberta porous/permeable pavement costs per area are also relatively high, compared to other types.  Just like Ontario/Alberta data, Philadelphia and US EA data shows lowest cost per hectare for infiltration/exfiltration projects.  The infiltration/exfiltration cost per storage volume was relatively low for both the US EPA and Philadelphia datasets.

The Philadelphia green infrastructure projects achieve a high volume, equivalent to 38.9 mm over the catchment area draining to it.  In contrast, the US EPA storage volumes are equivalent to only 6.6 mm.  The Philadelphia projects are sized for 1-2 inches of storage to achieve CSO control.  In contrast the US EPA projects are sized to achieve other benefits, such as watershed protection.

While the Philadelphia cost per area is highest at $857,000 per hectare, which is 4.1 times the US EPA database cost of only $208,000 per hectare, the unit cost per storage is in fact less.  The Philadelphia unit cost is $22,000 per hectare-mm.  The US EPA cost is $32,000 per hectare-mm, reflecting lower cost efficiency for smaller installations perhaps.

Using these unit costs one can estimate the budget required to retrofit green infrastructure into older urban areas to improve stormwater management.  In Ontario, the urban area built by 1966 has been estimated to be 110,000 hectares (Ducks Unlimited mapping), and by year 2000 to be 852,000 hectares (provincial SOLRIS land use mapping v2).  Assuming that 200,000 hectares require significant storage to achieve flood control in older communities, the retrofit cost would be $171 billion, applying the $857,000/hectare unit cost.  Or to provide improved water quality and water balance controls to the year 2000 urban area, the retrofit cost would be $177 billion, applying the $208,000/hectare unit cost.  Both of those costs represent considerable sums, given the Ontario stormwater infrastructure deficit of about $6.8 billion - that is the retrofit cost would be over 25 times that current deficit.  Given that, a strategic approach to retrofitting older communities is required, including prioritization of retrofit areas, implementing on higher-performance sites (e.g., permeable soils), implementing on highest risk tributaries (sensitive habitat, infrastructure or property risks), and considering the most cost effective measures, e.g., higher volume/centralized facilities that exhibit lower unit costs for storage, and feature types with lowest unit costs (i.e., infiltration/exfiltration facilities, and (to be confirmed) porous/permeable pavement).  The operation and maintenance costs associated with porous/permeable pavement should also be considered in the development of a retrofit strategy (i.e., consider full lifecycle costs including both capital and operating costs).


Update May 1, 2020

A few additional projects have been added to the cost table, including some updated costs for previously listed projects.  The added projects are the bottom six projects, representing an update for the Brampton County Court SNAP bioswale and the Newmarket Forest Glenn Drive LIDs.  The added projects are from the TRCA's cost review report to assess the updated LID lifecycle costing tool (LCCT Sensitivity Analysis A total of 47 projects are now included.

The weighted cost per hectare has increased slightly to $540,000 per hectare of drainage area.

Across Ontario, the areas that could be retrofitted with LID controls is extensive. The new provincial SOLRIS land use data has been reviewed to assess what the province-wide retrofit cost could be considering:

1) Urban impervious area = 344,000 hectares
2) Transportation area = 295,000 hectares
3) Urban pervious area = 93,000 hectares

Controlling runoff for all such areas with green infrastructure LIDs would cost $395,000,000,000 - that is, $395 billion assuming a unit cost of $540,000 per hectare.


The LID Cost Summary Table above presented costs per cubic metre so that the cost to achieve performance benefits through storage, e.g., water quality improvement, erosion stress reduction (water balance controls), or peak flow control, can be determined by those analyzing system performance. The costs in Philadelphia were $2,200 / cu.m for large volume controls (38.9 mm on average) while EPA BMP database costs were higher at $3,730 / cu.m for smaller controls (6.6 mm on average).

The added / revised Ontario projects include design volumes as well and so costs have been normalized by storage volume as shown below:

The Ontario cost per cubic metre is lower at $823.  This area-weighted cost reflect the very low unit cost of the Brampton bioretention rain garden of $297/cu.m - that cost is roughly an order of magnitude lower than the Philadelphia and US EPA BMP database costs for such features.  The median cost per cubic metre for these Ontario projects is $2,600, similar to the Philadelphia and US EPA cost.