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

Construction underway for new Cloverdale elementary school

The $33 million school is to seat 655 students

George Garrett retires from Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society board

Society completes more than 58,000 trips since 2016

B.C. families financially affected by pandemic eligible for grocery gift cards

Program open to struggling families in Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley communities

Two Surrey schools report COVID-19 exposures, including second contact for Panorama Ridge

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

VIDEO: Shots fired outside Langley gas station that was scene of 2018 homicide

No reports of injuries in Saturday evening incident

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Most Read