A Waterloo researcher is working to protect Canadians from catastrophic losses by supporting a new nationwide project to help communities safeguard their homes and businesses during extreme weather.

Climate change means storms like the recent floods in Southern Alberta and Toronto are increasing across Canada, and Blair Feltmate, chair of the Climate Change Adaptation Project (CCAP), says communities need to adapt or risk billions of dollars in damage.

Blair Feltmate“Climate change is a reality, and the events of the last year clearly demonstrate the need to weather-harden our communities, our infrastructure and our homes,” says Feltmate, an associate professor in Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment.

The national project, established in collaboration with Intact Financial Corporation through the CCAP, will be carried out in 20 locations in Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec.

The projects will showcase how communities can adapt so that extreme weather results in fewer and less substantial losses. It is the intention that the projects will be ultimately replicated in communities across the country.

Examples of projects supported through the CCAP include:

  • Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) will naturalize concrete-lined Spring Creek in the Region of Peel, and monitor it to determine how the naturalization helps to reduce flood potential. The project will remove much of the concrete, return the creek to a natural state, and reconnect it with the floodplain, all of which will dissipate stress on the channel during high flows. TRCA has made watercourse restoration a priority as many channels are approaching their engineered design life or, in some areas, are already past that point.
  • Green Calgary and Green Communities Canada will educate homeowners through the RAIN Home Visit Program on simple means to help flood-proof their homes, such as placing plastic covers over window-wells, ensuring that eaves troughs are kept clear, and that landscaping around homes directs water away from foundations.
  • Nature-Action Québec will convert an alleyway on the island of Montreal, removing part of the asphalt, planting trees and vegetation, and adding lattice stone pavement to reduce flooding due to stormwater or sewer backups. This project will also help reduce heat island-related problems.

Restoring urban wetlands helps cities cope 

The projects emerged from CCAP’s 2012 report that outlined a roadmap of priorities and recommendations to adapt to climate change. They focus on reducing the impact of torrential precipitation by restoring urban wetlands and water channels.  Other initiatives include the construction of rain gardens, bio-swales and permeable parking lots and roads.

In addition, educational campaigns will promote practical measures that homeowners can engage around their homes to help stop or limit the impacts of basement flooding.

Charles BrindamourCharles Brindamour, chief executive officer of Intact Financial Corporation, says: “This is a multi-stakeholder endeavour and we are thankful to the governmental agencies, NGOs and consumers that will participate in these projects. Together we will foster adaptation initiatives that will allow Canadians to better adapt to our changing climate.”


Aboriginal communities and bankers are pitching in

CCAP, launched in 2010, focused on how Canada can adapt to climate change. The 80 experts who contributed to the project come from diverse backgrounds including academia, law, banking, insurance, NGOs, Aboriginal communities, utilities and more.

“Preparing for climate change is non-negotiable. Extreme weather events will continue to increase in frequency and magnitude,” Feltmate says. “Adaptation is the only means to avoid financial and social costs that will otherwise be borne by all levels of government, industry and consumers.”