Urban flooding presents a severe and continuing problem for municipalities across Canada. Several recent events have exemplified the financial and social impact of severe urban flooding events, including the August 19, 2005 event in Southern Ontario, which resulted in over $500 million in insured damages and caused significant damage to infrastructure throughout the Greater Toronto Area, from Hamilton to Durham Region. Residents in the City of Hamilton have endured numerous basement flood events over the past five years, from July 26, 2005 and the August 19, 2005 storm to as recently as Autumn, 2010. Other recent severe events include flooding in Southern Alberta in 2005, resulting in $300 million in insured damages, and the 2004 flood event in Peterborough, Ontario, resulting in over $87 million in insured damages. The 2004 event in Peterborough also resulted in provincial disaster relief payments of $25 million, almost $6 million of which was paid to residents.
Aside from damage to infrastructure and the impact to the homes of their citizens, municipalities have also faced litigation associated with basement flooding, including the municipalities of Thunder Bay, Port Alberni, St. John’s and Kenora. In early 2010, the City of Stratford settled a class-action lawsuit related to a flood event in July, 2002. Under the settlement, $7.7 million was to be paid to approximately 800 homeowners in the city.
Municipal governments across Canada are working hard to reduce urban flood problems. Many cities are replacing and updating aging sewer systems and building additional capacity into existing systems. However, improving sewer infrastructure is an expensive and long-term process. In many cases, these projects will take several years to complete.
Reflecting the role of private property owners in urban flood reduction, many Canadian municipalities have employed programs to increase public awareness of urban flood risk and encourage the adoption of mitigation measures. There may be several components to these programs, including educational programs, by-laws and financial incentive programs.
Current list of Canadian municipal subsidy and loan programs for basement flood risk reduction
Handbook for reducing basement flooding