Canada’s provinces and territories have received a flood preparedness grade of “C”, following a two-year national study led by the University of Waterloo.
The university’s Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation surveyed 139 provincial and territorial government officials responsible for managing floods, climate-related risks and emergency services from across all regions of Canada to calculate the grade.
To create the ranking, which was finalized in 2019, the report considered elements such as the state of readiness for Canada’s flood plain maps; land use planning relative to flood risk; efforts to retain natural infrastructure; flood safety and preparedness of critical infrastructure; and public health and emergency management capacity to limit flood risk.
“Canada is heading in the right direction on flood risk protection. In light of effectively irreversible climate change, both the challenge and opportunity going forward will be to continue to deploy measures to limit future risk of flooding,” said Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre and co-author of the report.
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A comparable study completed in 2016 resulted in a national score of “C-“, suggesting that Canada’s preparedness to limit flood risk has progressed over the last four years. There were some material improvements in the flood preparedness scores of the Yukon, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island.
Flooding remains Canada’s costliest natural disaster. For every single dollar paid out in insurance claims for homes and businesses, the Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that federal governments pay out three dollars to recover public infrastructure damaged by severe weather, the study notes.
In Alberta, for instance, snowmelt from plains and mountains, heavy rainfall and ice jams are the primary causes of flooding.
In Ontario, the most common form of flooding is urban, when stormwater exceeds infrastructure capacities and capabilities. For example, in 2013 the Toronto floods caused $1 to $1.4 billion in damages and resulted in the greatest flood-related losses in Ontario’s history.
Many survey respondents referenced the need for Canada to provide – in a timely fashion – user-friendly and publicly accessible up-to-date flood risk maps.
Study respondents also reported the need for significant improvements regarding the communication and dissemination of critical information before, during and following flood events.
The study suggests that provinces and territories might consider forming flood risk task forces to examine interdependencies across multiple aspects of infrastructure resiliency.
“Overall, the study revealed that understanding of flood risk mitigation across Canada is high. Canadian provinces and territories must now double-down on the deployment of adaptation practices to ensure that the 2024 national grade on flood preparedness becomes an ‘A’,” the study states.