The City of Ottawa is laying out a 20-year plan to protect waterways, aquifers and wetlands — everything from making sure new development doesn't lead to erosion to working with landowners about the runoff from their properties.

A report that goes to the city's environment committee Tuesday also explores how Ottawa can be more resilient to climate change and flooding.

"This is not going to be a strategy that sits on a shelf," said Summer Casgrain-Robertson, general manager of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority.

The environmental protection agency has been studying water courses to find out which ones are healthy and which ones need improvement.

'This is not going to be a strategy that sits on a shelf.' - Summer Casgrain-Robertson, RVCA

"We've done really good work in taking stock of our watershed health and now it's time to really put time and energy into those projects and ideas that are going to make a difference," she said.

The report to the environment committee is the second phase of the water environment strategy, which grew out of the Ottawa River Action Plan of 2010.

Meredith Brown — the head of Ottawa Riverkeeper, which aims to protect the river's ecological health — thinks the city could stop spending so many millions of dollars on huge storm water tanks and instead look for more natural ways of absorbing rainwater, such as planting trees and preserving wetlands.

"This is something where they have a huge opportunity and they're really doing very, very little. It could be much better," she said.

Both Brown and Casgrain-Robertson say Ottawa's water environment strategy is important because it will help co-ordinate the work of many players.  

"Protecting water is a complex problem, it's challenging and it spans across all city departments," Brown said.

Read the full water environment strategy report here.