A stop sign is shown in a flooded intersection in Grand Forks, B.C., on May 17, 2018. A new report says provincial governments are not moving fast enough to protect homes and other buildings from the ravages of flooding. The report from the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo says on average provincial governments get a grade of C for flood preparedness. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Provinces not moving fast enough to assess, mitigate flood risk: report

British Columbia and Saskatchewan haven’t updated their flood maps in more than two decades

A new report says provincial governments are not moving fast enough to protect homes and other buildings from the ravages of flooding.

The report from the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo says on average provincial governments get a grade of C for flood preparedness.

Centre chair Blair Feltmate says that’s an improvement from a C-minus in a similar report four years ago, but it’s not enough progress when climate change is bringing bigger flood risks every year.

“If the question is ’Are we moving in the right direction on flood risk mitigation?’ the answer is yes. (If it’s) ’Are we moving fast enough?’ the answer is no,” he said.

The results are based on interviews with 139 provincial and territorial officials, assessing nine categories including emergency plans, flood mapping, critical infrastructure protection, land-use planning and critical infrastructure protections.

Feltmate says provincial governments should be updating their flood maps every five to seven years but Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province that has fully updated its river, coastal and rainfall risk maps since 2015.

British Columbia and Saskatchewan haven’t updated their flood maps in more than two decades.

“We need to do more work almost universally across the country to update floodplain maps on a regular basis,” he said. “And we need to make these maps publicly available and user-friendly.”

Many jurisdictions are reluctant to make such maps public: when new assessments find homes and businesses are at higher risks of flooding, property values suffer.

Feltmate said that the research and knowledge are there to mitigate those higher risks, either with public infrastructure like berms, or individual homeowner efforts such as sloping the ground away from foundations and installing proper backwater valves in basements to keep drains from backing up when sewers overflow.

“The good news is we know what to do. The bad news is we aren’t deploying those measures quickly enough,” he said.

ALSO READ: B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

The report also shows most provinces don’t have any regulations preventing new developments from going up in high flood-risk spots, and several also haven’t done much to assess and protect critical buildings like hospitals and schools.

Flooding is Canada’s most expensive type of natural disaster, and the number and frequency of floods has increased in recent years, largely attributed to climate change. Warmer air holds more moisture, which means heavier rains.

A report by the World Resources Institute earlier this year warned the yearly cost of overflowing rivers and rising seas could triple by 2030 without more effort on flood mitigation. It also predicted the number of Canadians affected will grow from 200,000 in 2010 to 350,000 in 2030.

Public Safety Canada’s disaster-aid program averaged payouts of more than $430 million between 2016 and 2019, $360 million between 2011 and 2015, and $120 million between 2006 and 2010. Most of the events requiring disaster aid in the last three years were rainstorms and spring flooding.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada also shows insured costs for extreme weather, a majority of which is for flooding, averaged $400 million between 1983 and 2008, but in eight of the nine years between 2009 and 2017, that cost was over $1 billion. The bureau also said for every dollar in insurance paid out for disasters, governments, home and business owners pay three to four dollars more.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

flood mitigation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: Active cases in central zone up Tuesday

Central zone active cases remains lowest of all zones

Breeding better barley

The Field Crop Development Centre continues to breed new barley varieties that benefit Alberta farmers and ranchers

Central zone active cases down to 20

Province provides update

UPDATED: Red Deer has nine active COVID-19 cases

Number of cases increased by 107 Friday

Man sentenced to 7 years for gas-and-dash death of Alberta gas station owner

Ki Yun Jo was killed after Mitchell Sydlowski sped off in a stolen cube van without paying for $198 of fuel

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

Staff at Stettler Auction Mart keeping busy despite pandemic restrictions

‘We have a lot of technology nowadays so it’s made it a little bit easier to deal with something like this, that’s for sure.’

Lacombe-based author Fran Kimmel to lead writers’ workshop in Stettler

Kimmel’s novels include Shore Girl and No Good Asking

Public health officials urge Canadians to limit contacts again as COVID-19 cases rise

Canada has committed $1 billion to buy at least 154 million doses of vaccines from five different companies

Majority of Canadians support wearing masks during COVID-19, oppose protests: poll

Nearly 90 per cent felt wearing a mask was a civic duty because it protects others from COVID-19

RCMP say body located of man who fell in river during stop for photos in Banff

Parks Canada has said the man was from India and living in Canada on a work visa

Paper towel in short supply as people stay home, clean more, industry leader says

While toilet paper consumption has returned to normal levels, paper towel sales continue to outpace pre-COVID levels

Lacombe beekeepers give the buzz on winterizing hives

Winterizing a honeybee hive is not a simple task, local apiarists say

Most Read