Halifax city planners say working hand in hand with scientists is the new norm when it comes to developing the region's infrastructure to make sure it can withstand the pressures of climate change.

The biggest example of the partnership can be found in the ongoing work at the seawall in Sir Sandford Fleming Park, commonly referred to as the Dingle.

Blair Greenan

Blair Greenan's research has helped create a planning tool for municipalities to see future sea levels in their community, which allows them to adapt their infrastructure to make sure it survives. (CBC)

"They've actually raised that walkway by about a metre to accommodate specifically for the issue of sea level rise along that seawall," said Blair Greenan, the head of the oceanography and climate section at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.

Greenan and his colleagues have developed planning systems for communities to predict how they should adapt their infrastructure to rising sea levels.

"In Halifax we're seeing sea level rise of about three millimetres a year," said Greenan. "One millimetre of that is because the land is sinking."

Multiple projections show the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia will see the water rise by 25 centimetres by 2050.

For city planners, that adds up.

"This is valid research. It goes directly from the theoretical to the practical for us," said John Charles, a planner with Halifax Regional Municipality. "It's a standard lens that's used in coastal practice now."

Charles says the research has helped create a seawall that can be modified, allowing the city to add elevation when necessary.

'Making wise decisions'

Halifax seawall

City planners have worked with scientists to determine what size of stones should be used to build the new seawall to withstand intense storms. (Robert Short)

They've also used the research to help determine what materials to use.

"With the information and the support of some of the modelling, we were able to actually look at wave height and wave intensity. Then we used that intensity to then gauge the size of the stone that would be needed to withstand those waves."

Greenan says Halifax is ahead of the curve when integrating climate change science with long-term development, something both men agree will help save tax dollars in the future by preventing damage.

He says sea levels were also taken into consideration during planning of the Kings Wharf condominiums in Dartmouth.

Charles says the municipality will continue to implement the advice of scientists as it replaces infrastructure in the future. 

"That's the fantastic thing about when we're making wise decisions — hopefully for the long term — in terms of infrastructure investment, this is valid research," he said.