At the Front Lines of Flood

We interviewed 18 Ontario municipalities, 2 First Nation communities, and 15 Conservation Authorities, asking them "How prepared is your community for flood"?

"Communities are at the front line of flood and climate adaptation, and are the first to react and drive the policy changes we need," said Shawna Peddle, Director of Partners for Action at Waterloo. "However, some feel they are left to their own devices to make informed decisions about the risk of flood for their residents."

Key findings from this study include:

  1. Flooding is a major source of socio-economic vulnerability in small and medium-sized Ontario communities, placing unnecessary strain on municipal resources, specifically urban flooding associated with damage from sewer backup.
  2. Communities are the first jurisdictions to react and drive the policy change needed to improve flood and climate change resiliency, but with scarce resources. Some feel they are ‘left to their own devices to make informed decisions’ about the magnitude of flood risk and implications for their residents.
  3. Communities are acting to manage vulnerability to flood, but these efforts are fragmented, creating uncertainty about their effectiveness. Communities also lack institutional and financial capacity to enforce, update and further invest in these actions to improve resiliency.
  4. Federal and provincial policy and funding to reduce vulnerability and improve capacity of our communities to prepare and recover from flood are underutilized and underdeveloped.
  5. There is a strong divide in capacity to understand and address flood risk between urban and rural communities (including First Nation communities).
  6. Municipalities need funding, capacity, technical and scientific support, regulation, and community and political buy-in to address the present and future risk of flood.

What our communities need to prepare for flood

This study recommends that to improve resiliency in our communities, the following actions are required:

  1. Public Safety Canada should establish and enforce national standards for flood risk management and mapping, and should also significantly expand and facilitate accessibility of funding through the National Disaster Mitigation Program.
  2. The Ontario government should increase funding to Conservation Authorities for planning, flood management, and maintenance and operation of flood structures.
  3. Provincial and federal governments should address the current leadership gap and prioritize community resiliency to flood by supporting communities in understanding and communicating risk and opportunities to reduce this risk.
  4. All levels of government should further efforts to increase personal flood risk awareness, to encourage behavioural changes and increase the uptake of residential incentive programs.
  5. All levels of government should work with the insurance industry to improve our understanding of flood risk in this country, and opportunities to reduce this risk.

Federal and provincial governments need to prioritize community resiliency and provide technical, planning, and financial support to community leaders. Additionally, Ontario should increase funding to Conservation Authorities to reliably fund management and flood protection activities for the long-term.