Regional Approach to Building Urban Flood Resilience

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Municipal representatives sitting in on a workshop presentation.

Essex Region – Representatives from municipalities, the University of Windsor, the insurance industry and consulting engineers joined together on October 29 to discuss priority actions for increasing regional flood resilience. The workshop was co-hosted by the Essex Region Conservation Authority and Green Communities Canada.

“Changing rainfall patterns, more intense storms, rapid snowmelt and other effects that correlate with climate change is increasing the risk of flooding,” said James Bryant, Water Resources Engineer.  “Intense rainfall events are happening more frequently, and the number of flood warnings we’re issuing has also been increasing. There is urgent action needed across the region to improve resiliency.” ERCA has recently coordinated a rainfall Intensity-Duration-Frequency study on behalf of the region, and is currently in the process of finalizing the Regional Stormwater Management Standards Manual. Both of these studies will provide important region-wide data to help improve flood resilience across region.

Karina Richters, Supervisor, Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change for the City of Windsor, presented an overview of the steps that Windsor is implementing. “The September 2016 and August 2017 storms resulted in more than $250 million dollars in insured losses. In addition to the steps that the municipality is undertaking to combat the impacts of these rainfall events, we want to help homeowners reduce their homes’ vulnerability,” she noted. “Efforts like this help to move forward regional collaboration, share solutions and expertise. It is also critically important that we step up our efforts in communicating risks and solutions to individual homeowners. If we all work together, the impact of our efforts can be much more effective. ”

In fact, public education and engagement emerged as one of the key actions that must be taken on a region-wide basis.  “There are some very low cost preventative measures that homeowners can take to protect their own properties and lower their risk of basement flooding,” advised Tony Marvelli, President of the Windsor-Essex County Association of Insurance Brokers.  “Downspout disconnections, ensuring sump pumps are in working order, adding a water backup system and/or backflow valve are all low cost measures that can be put into place to mitigate individual risk.  Many of these remedies are subsidized by municipal programs and there are also incentives available for some insurance policy holders.”  Marvelli encourages homeowners to talk to their brokers to see what options are available that can potentially save tens of thousands of dollars in the instance of these extreme rainfall situations.

“Overland flooding, sewer backups, and sewage overflows are increasingly becoming a problem for Ontario cities and towns, affecting thousands of residents and businesses and causing billions of dollars in damages,” said Alix Taylor, Project Manager – Water Programs, Green Communities Canada.  “These cross-sectoral conversations will contribute to an Ontario Flood Resilience Strategy.”

The workshop was one of several being hosted across Ontario to gain input on local and provincial issues related to urban flooding, and strategies for addressing them as part of the Ontario Urban Flooding Collaborative, hosted by Green Communities Canada and supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

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