The Alberta flood of 2013 was the most expensive disaster in Canadian history, costing the Canadian economy $4.8 billion in economic losses, says Barbara Turley-McIntyre of the Co-operators insurance company. “There must be a way that we can come up with adaptation plans that lower those numbers in future, being proactive rather than reactive,” she told The Canadian Press.
“The events related to climate change are not coming to an end,” Turley-McIntyre said. “I can’t give you hard numbers but I can say look at the trajectory that we’ve been on and assume that it’s going to continue.”
A recent survey by RBC says 74 per cent of Canadians agree that climate change will cause more extreme weather in future, but only 23 per cent are concerned about droughts or flooding. Just nine per cent have taken precautionary measures to protect their homes from extreme weather.
“This level of inactivity on the part of Canadians is concerning,” says Bob Sandford, chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative of the UN Water for Life Decade. “You wouldn’t go out in a rainstorm without an umbrella. Why wouldn’t you try to safeguard your home from the weather, too?”
The survey also shows that Canadians are not aware that paved areas and concrete in urban settings puts a strain on municipal storm water systems. It found that 53 per cent of Canadians prefer a concrete driveway. Asked if they would be willing to change their driveways to a water permeable solution such as gravel or interlocking stones, 55 per cent said they still prefer concrete.
The survey also found that only 21 per cent of Canadians think that major investments in storm water management are necessary.
“This lack of public awareness makes it very difficult for municipalities to explain why investments in infrastructure are so urgent,” says Sandford. “The right infrastructure is our most critical defense against flooding.”
Canada also remains the only country in the G8 where homeowners can’t buy flood insurance.
RBC has launched a 10-year commitment called the Blue Water Project, designed to help protect water resources in urban areas. It says there are some small changes that homeowners can do around their homes that will have a big impact during heavy rain and snow storms.
Green spaces around the home will absorb water slowly into the ground and keep the water from rushing down storm sewers.
“Increasing the amount of vegetation around your home is simple, affordable and beautiful and it helps protect the quality of our water systems,” says RBC.
Eavestroughs should be cleaned out and downspouts should direct water as far away from the house as possible to avoid basement flooding. In municipalities where downspouts are connected to the storm water system, they should be disconnected and directed into the yard.
Clean leaves and debris out of the storm drains near your home, and during spring snow bank melts, chop away the ice covering drains to keep the water flowing.
Public Safety Canada suggests putting weather sealant around basement windows and the base of ground-level doors. If you have a basement, consider installing a sump pump and zero reverse flow valves in the floor drains.
The RBC survey says that more than 40 per cent of Canadians are aware of what water supply, sewage and storm water management systems service their homes.
The 2013 floods in Alberta have had a serious impact on an otherwise healthy real estate market. The Globe and Mail reports that areas where homes were impacted by the floods have seen prices drop by about 10 per cent, and in the hardest-hit areas, prices are down by 25 per cent or more. Almost 2,000 homes in 15 neighbourhoods have seen a market value reduction according to city assessment rolls, says the Globe and Mail.
While Canadians are largely unconcerned about the impact of severe rain and snow, there are some water issues that annoy us. The RBC survey says that people who water their lawns during a ban or drought, and people who water their lawns while it’s raining or just about to rain, annoy us the most. Other behaviours that bug us include people who waste water by hosing down their driveways, people who leave the faucet running in a public place such as a coffee shop or restaurant, those who shovel snow from their property on to the street and people who let street trash block storm sewer grates.
Written by Jim Adair