Nova Scotia is an Atlantic Canadian province almost entirely surrounded by water. As such, climate change impacts including sea level rise and increases in extreme weather events and storm surges are expected to affect land uses (e.g., infrastructure, agriculture). This study, focused on land use planners, aimed to develop and/or modify tools to analyze climate change impacts on Canadian communities, as well as tools to implement adaptations to these impacts. Two case sites were used to test these tools: Annapolis Royal, a small rural town prone to flooding, and the Pereau Watershed, a rural watershed in Annapolis Valley that is likely to experience agricultural drought due to climate change. General recommendations on incorporating climate change into municipal and residential planning were put forth as a result of this study. Specific results of the Annapolis Royal case study can be found here.


Nova Scotia is a coastal Canadian province almost entirely surrounded by water - nowhere in Nova Scotia is more than 34 miles from the ocean. Because of their close proximity to the ocean, communities will experience similar climate change impacts such as increased coastal erosion, inundation of floodplains, and saltwater intrusion. These predicted climate changes would, in turn, affect land uses such as infrastructure and agriculture.

The goals of this project were to: (a) review the analysis tools (e.g., GIS, scientific modeling, decision support) that municipal and consulting engineers, planners, economists, and scientists use to inform land use planning decisions and incorporate climate change considerations; (b) review implementation tools (e.g., building codes, land use by-law, planning policies) that municipal land use planners use to implement their policies and incorporate climate change considerations; and (c) test the developed analysis and implementation toolkits in two case sites, Annapolis Royal and the Pereau Watershed.


Birch Hill GeoSolutions reviewed climate change impacts and adaptation literature, as well as existing case studies, to evaluate how appropriate these impacts and adaptations were to rural communities and regional land use planning. They then reviewed analysis and implementation tools that are used to inform and implement land use planning decisions, and modified or created new tools to incorporate climate change impacts. The tools that were developed focused on two specific climate change impacts: coastal and interior flooding and groundwater availability to agriculture. Analysis tools that were developed and/or modified included climate change modeling tools, coastal flooding analysis, inland flooding analysis, hydrogeology analysis, risk and cost benefit analysis, and land use carrying capacity. Implementation tools that were developed and/or modified included engineering codes of practice, regulations and administrative practices related to land use planning, building codes, sustainable buildings, and emergency management.

Following the review and modification of analysis and implementation tools, toolkits were then developed and tested in two case sites: Annapolis Royal and the Pereau Watershed. Annapolis Royal, a small rural town in Nova Scotia, was used to test the toolkit developed for coastal and inland flooding. Flooding is currently a problem in the town and will likely be exacerbated by climate change. The Pereau Watershed is a rural watershed in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley and was primarily evaluated for climate change impacts on agricultural drought and future residential development (e.g., on-site septic and wells). The results of the Annapolis Royal toolkit and case study are covered in the Annapolis Royal Tidal Surge Analysis case study. The Pereau Watershed test case site results were limited due to a lack of information from farmers as well as a difficulty in projecting climate change impacts on hydrogeology. The final mapping results predict an increase in the area of saline environment in the dykeland and nearshore agricultural areas. An increase in the protection area of well buffers (from development) is the final recommended strategy.

Outcomes and Conclusions

General recommendations for land use planners include:

  • Educate residents regarding the costs and benefits of flood- and storm-proofing measures
  • Incorporate climate change adaptation best practices into municipal public works practices and engineering designs
  • Consider building climate change adaptation into new subdivisions (e.g., greener stormwater management, flood-proofing, energy efficient buildings)
  • Start a local flood monitoring program to track flood levels and frequencies in order to update model projections
  • Expand risk/cost/benefit analysis to address costs of green building versus traditional subdivision design and building
  • Prepare model municipal by-laws to include climate change impacts and adaptations
  • Develop a detailed analysis of municipal budgeting capabilities in terms of their capacity to include climate change impacts and adaptations
  • Consider hydrogeology in assessing groundwater availability and climate change impacts when planning for regional and urban development
Updated 12/2010

Kershner, J. (2010). Climate Change Adaptations for Land Use Planners [Case study on a project of Birch Hill GeoSolutions]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated December 2010)


Scale of Project
State / Provincial
Sector Addressed
Land Use Planning
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Infrastructure damage
Salinization / Saltwater intrusion
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Water quality
Climate Type
3-5 years
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Incorporate future conditions into natural resources planning and policies
Reduce non-climate stressors
Capacity Building
Design or reform institutions
Increase organizational capacity
Coordinate planning and management
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Conduct vulnerability assessments and studies
Create/enhance resources and tools
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Infrastructure retrofitting and improvements
Water supply: retrofitting and improvements
Buildings: retrofitting and improvements
Community Planning (developing climate-smart communities)
Governance and Policy
Effort Stage